Nominees Brown and Owen Pushed toward Senate Vote despite Records of Putting Political Agenda before Law

Frist may use previously rejected nominees as excuse to deploy ‘nuclear option’

Two judicial nominees who failed to win Senate approval during President Bush’s first term are moving this week, with Senate Judiciary Committee votes scheduled on Thursday, April 21 for Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown.

Owen and Brown hold seats on the Texas and California Supreme Courts, where they have repeatedly tried to remake, rather than interpret, the law in ways that would harm the rights of individuals and consumers but benefit corporations. Their disturbing records have led women’s, environmental, civil rights, and consumer organizations to join a broad coalition of groups opposed to the confirmation of Owen and Brown.

People For the American Way, which has energetically opposed confirmation of Owen and Brown, sent a letter today to members of the Judiciary Committee updating earlier reports and concluding that Owen and Brown are no more fit for confirmation to lifetime federal appellate judgeships than they were when their confirmations were first rejected.

“Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown have tried over and over again to rewrite laws according to their own political ideology,” said Neas. “Pushing Owen and Brown for the federal courts completely contradicts President Bush’s claims that he is seeking judges who follow the law. This kind of nominee is exactly why we have a system of checks and balances to protect Americans from courts filled with partisan judges who serve for life.”

OWEN: JUDGE AS ANTI-CONSUMER, ANTI-INDIVIDUAL ACTIVIST

Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, whose nomination was rejected by the Judiciary Committee in 2002, and was renominated in 2003 and again this year, continues to demonstrate her commitment to judicial activism in favor of corporations and against consumers and individual rights, according to PFAW’s letter to the Judiciary Committee. She stands out as a far-right partisan on a court that is increasingly conservative overall.

When Owen’s confirmation was blocked through a filibuster in 2003, the Houston Chronicle applauded, noting that Owen’s record continued to show “less interest in impartially interpreting the law than in pushing an agenda.” Since then, says the PFAW letter, Owen has continued to demonstrate her tendency to improperly re-write statutes and contracts from the bench to limit individuals’ protections under the law.

The letter also refutes recent efforts by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter to defend Owen’s record as a judge in reproductive rights cases. Even her current and former colleagues, including current attorney general Alberto Gonzales, have criticized her efforts to rewrite the law from the bench to impose her own beliefs.

BROWN: PUSHING TO REVERSE ECONOMIC & ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTIONS

California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown has used her position to push a radical view of the Constitution that would eliminate worker protections like minimum wage laws, give corporations free reign to abuse workers and the environment, and undermine constitutional protections for fundamental rights and liberties.

Like Owen, Brown failed to win confirmation in 2003, after her confirmation hearing, as the New York Times reported, “ratified her critics’ worst fears.”

Since then, Brown has continued to demonstrate her hostility to workers’ rights and victims of discrimination. She has repeatedly tried to get the state Supreme Court to rewrite laws to make them fit her own economic and political philosophy, urging a kind of judicial activism that flies in the face of claims by the White House and Republican leadership that they are looking for judges who will follow the law.

DESTRUCTIVE NUCLEAR POLITICS

Republican leaders’ insistence on pushing Owen and Brown, who will certainly face Democratic filibusters this year as they did in the last Congress, points to a larger political agenda. It is considered likely that Brown and Owen are being pushed precisely because they will provoke a filibuster, and that Republican leaders will try to use those filibusters as an excuse to deploy the nuclear option – a parliamentary abuse of power that would eliminate the use of the filibuster against judicial nominations and clear the path for right-wing ideologues like Owen and Brown to be put on the U.S. Supreme Court when vacancies arise.

Neas urged Senators of both parties to reject the cynical politics reflected by the renomination of Owen and Brown, and vowed that People For the American Way would continue to educate Americans about the dangerous judges who will almost certainly fill our highest courts if Senator Frist is allowed to get away with his illegitimate power play.

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