Janice Rogers Brown Confirmation Disastrous for Courts and Constitution

Statement of People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas

The confirmation of radical right judicial activist Janice Rogers Brown to a powerful lifetime position on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is a disaster for the courts and for the Constitution. It is a sad day for the Senate – and for Americans who are counting on senators to fulfill their constitutional duty to evaluate every judicial nominee carefully and confirm only those who will uphold Americans’ constitutional rights and legal protections.

It is astonishing that a majority of Senators voted to confirm someone with such an extreme view of the Constitution and such a well-documented record of twisting the law to fit her own ideology.

Justice Brown has tried to use her position on California’s Supreme Court to rewrite the law to fit her extreme ideology. She believes we would be better off if we returned to a time when protections like the minimum wage, food safety standards, and Social Security and Medicare were ruled unconstitutional—never mind what voters and elected officials think. She equates affordable housing regulations with theft. She argues that much corporate behavior can only be regulated if companies agree that it’s in their best interest. She calls court decisions upholding the New Deal “our own socialist revolution.” Her record on civil rights and equal opportunity offends the very notion of justice.

It is particularly disappointing that not a single Senate Republican voted against Justice Brown’s confirmation. The nation’s founders made the President and the Senate constitutional partners in appointing federal judges. They did not expect the Senate to act as a rubber stamp for any president’s nominees. But that’s what this Senate has become when someone like Janice Rogers Brown is given a lifetime position on our second highest court.

The only consolation in today’s vote is that as an appeals court judge Janice Rogers Brown should be constrained in part by Supreme Court precedent. The fact that the Supreme Court does not yet share her reactionary views about Americans’ rights and legal protections should at least limit for now the damage her confirmation will cause.

We are counting on the fact that senators from both parties will hold future Supreme Court nominees to a much higher standard, since the Supreme Court has the final say on interpreting our Constitution and laws. Janice Rogers Brown would be an extraordinarily unfit nominee to the Supreme Court. If President Bush fails to identify consensus conservative nominees for future Supreme Court vacancies, senators should use every means at their disposal to protect the Constitution by preventing a radical ideologue like Brown from being seated on the Supreme Court.

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