A second hearing on March 13 on the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit provided no new information contradicting the clear record of her right-wing judicial activism, which led the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject her confirmation last year after an in-depth hearing. President Bush’s renomination of Owen to the same appeals court for which she had already been rejected by the Judiciary Committee was unprecedented. A new report by People For the American Way reviews and refutes the recent attempts by Owen and Sen. Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch to explain away her disturbing record as a state court judge.
“Priscilla Owen’s record won’t change, no matter how many hearings Sen. Hatch holds, or how many softball questions he lobs in her direction,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “Even before this most recent hearing, the record was clear that Owen is a far-right judicial activist who tries to remake the law to reach an outcome that is often hostile to the rights and interests of individuals. The hearing did nothing to change that record. Senators should reject this unprecedented effort to force Owen onto the appeals court.”
The People For the American Way report examines efforts by Sen. Hatch and his colleagues to help Owen dismiss the frequent and vigorous criticism of her attempted judicial activism by other Texas Supreme Court justices, including conservatives appointed by then-Gov. George W. Bush. In particular, the report cites the written opinions of then-Justice Alberto Gonzales, as well as more recent public statements by and on behalf of Gonzales, to debunk claims by Owen and Hatch that Gonzales had never criticized her as an activist. The People For the American Way report also refutes claims by Owen that some of her judicial activism was grounded in decisions by the Supreme Court or other federal courts.
“If Sen. Hatch and Justice Owen want to rewrite history, they might want to pick a topic where the historical record is not so clear,” said Neas. “Even Justice Owen’s conservative colleagues have repeatedly criticized her attempted judicial activism on reproductive rights as well as civil rights and consumer protection. The efforts by Sen. Hatch and his colleagues to downplay such criticisms have no support in the record.”
Owen’s confirmation is opposed by a broad range of state and national organizations, including more than two dozen Texas groups that had called on President Bush not to renominate Owen, explaining that her opinions have been “extreme and often directly at odds with established rights and protections enjoyed by all Texans.”