New Report: Federal Judge Terrence Boyle Unfit for Promotion to Court of Appeals

Boyle as Federal Judge: High Reversal Rate, Troubling Record on Individual Rights

The judicial record of appeals court nominee Terrence Boyle is marked by an unusually high percentage of decisions reversed by higher courts and a series of rulings that is damaging to individuals’ ability to have their rights protected in court, according to a detailed report on Boyle’s record released today by People For the American Way, a national civil rights and constitutional liberties organization. The Senate Judiciary Committee has reportedly scheduled a hearing on Boyle’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit for March 1, 2005.

“Terrence Boyle is a judicial disaster. The third time is definitely not the charm for Judge Boyle, who has twice failed to win confirmation to the Fourth Circuit,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “He has the worst reversal rate of all the district court judges nominated by President Bush, and his rulings reflect a judicial philosophy that is very damaging to the rights of average Americans. Senators should take a careful look at Judge Boyle’s record and vote to stop him from taking a powerful lifetime position on the appeals court.”

The People For the American Way report documents that during his tenure as a federal district court judge, Boyle has tried to effectively overrule key federal laws and precedents that protect fundamental civil and constitutional rights. Among the highlights of Boyle’s record:

  • a North Carolina employment case in which he suggested that the federal government should respect discrimination that is explained by a state’s “culture”;
  • attempts to exempt state agencies from federal anti-discrimination laws, including an Americans with Disabilities Act case in which he suggested that working is “not a major life activity” warranting protection under the ADA;
  • a reversal rate that is significantly higher than other judges in the Fourth Circuit, one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country;
  • repeated reversals for committing “plain error,” which are obvious and egregious mistakes that harm individual rights and undermine the fairness and integrity of judicial proceedings;
  • numerous reversals for repeating the same mistakes for which he was reversed in earlier rulings.

“I believe Judge Boyle’s confirmation hearing will make clear that he does not have the exemplary legal record or the judicial philosophy to justify his promotion to the Fourth Circuit,” said Neas.

Neas said that serious questions are also raised by Boyle’s mischaracterizing the reasons for some of his reversals in answers to a questionnaire that he submitted under oath to the Judiciary Committee. In addition, the number of reversals in his career that he cites in response to this year’s questionnaire has somehow dropped by almost half since his 2003 questionnaire. This is despite court records showing that he has been reversed in more cases since 2003.

A copy of the full PFAW report on Boyle’s record can be found here. In addition, People For the American Way is among the signers of a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing concern that thousands of Boyle’s unpublished district court opinions have not been disclosed or reviewed.

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