Nominee for 11th Circuit Has ‘Extremely Troubling’ Record
President Bush today announced the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas called Pryor’s nomination “extremely troubling” and said it was “an unfortunate continuation of this administration’s efforts to pack the appeals courts with divisive far-right nominees.”
Neas noted that Pryor is one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates for a states’ rights approach to the Constitution. As Attorney General and as a leader in the Federalist Society, Pryor has successfully urged the Supreme Court to roll back the clock on federal protections against age discrimination and discrimination against people with disabilities. In another case, he urged the Court to limit disparate impact analysis, a foundation of civil rights enforcement, in order to defend Alabama’s refusal to offer drivers license exams in any language other than English. Pryor has recently filed an amicus brief in a pending case before the Supreme Court involving the state of Nevada that would leave state employees with no real recourse for violations of the Family & Medical Leave Act.
In a March 2001 speech, Pryor praised the recent series of Supreme Court states’ rights rulings as “a breakthrough in the restoration of dual sovereignty and enumerated powers.” And he has called for the Court to expand its states’ rights rulings in other areas.
Pryor hopes that Bush administration Supreme Court appointments will further the states’ rights cause. “Most of the important federalism decisions of the last decade were reached by a 5 to 4 vote,” Pryor says. “A single appointment to the Court by the Bush administration could decide the fate of federalism. If all goes well, that future will be bright.”
Pryor is a fervent opponent of reproductive rights for women. “I will never forget Jan. 22, 1973, the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children,” he told a rally in 1997.
Pryor considers much of the Supreme Court case law preserving the separation of church and state to be “errors.” At a public rally on behalf of a judge who was sued for praying and displaying the 10 Commandments in court, Pryor announced, “God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians…to save our country and save our courts.” In 1997 Pryor stated, “The matters about life and death and freedom and religion are not being decided in our country anymore by the people and their elected representatives. They are being decided in court, and I think there is something wrong with that.”
Neas said the Bush administration’s efforts to pack the federal appeals courts with far-right ideologues would have a devastating impact on civil rights, reproductive rights, religious liberty, environmental protection, consumer and worker rights, and much more. He called on Senators to fulfill their constitutional obligation to review judicial nominees carefully and to reject those who are not committed to preserving Americans’ rights, liberties, and legal protections.