Record as a Judge Shows High Reversal Rate, Troubling Rulings on Individual Rights
A People For the American Way Analysis of Boyle’s Judicial Record
President Bush has made his third nomination of North Carolina District Court Judge Terrence Boyle to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit after Boyle failed to win confirmation in two previous Congresses. The attempt to elevate Boyle to the Circuit Court has generated significant concern and opposition. Boyle has been reversed frequently by the conservative Fourth Circuit, often for making the same legal errors for which he had been reversed previously. In fact, his record of reversals is worse than any other district court judge nominated by President Bush. As discussed below, moreover, Boyle has apparently attempted to obscure his troubling record of reversals in answers recently submitted under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In addition, Judge Boyle has used his position on the bench to issue opinions reflecting an extreme judicial philosophy that is seriously damaging to ordinary Americans on civil rights and other issues. For example, the Supreme Court has twice reversed Boyle in voting rights cases, including once in a unanimous opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas. In another case, Boyle actually suggested that a state should be allowed to discriminate against women in employment and thus violate federal anti-bias law because that law somehow conflicts with the state’s “culture.” And in yet another opinion criticized by the Fourth Circuit, Boyle suggested that working should not be considered a “major life activity” under the Americans with Disabilities Act, directly contradicting prior court precedent.
During Boyle’s previous nominations, then-Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of Judge Boyle’s home-state senators, raised very serious concerns about Judge Boyle’s record and opposed giving Boyle a lifetime position on the Court of Appeals. Senator Edwards shared his concerns about Judge Boyle’s record and his opposition to Boyle’s confirmation with both Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch and the White House Counsel. Explaining the reason for his objections, Senator Edwards said:
As a North Carolina Senator, I am very familiar with [Boyle’s] record. Judge Boyle’s decisions have been reversed or vacated more than one hundred times. Two of these rulings were by the United States Supreme Court, one by a unanimous vote. Judge Boyle’s record on civil rights is particularly troubling. In numerous cases, he has inaccurately interpreted the law in a way that undercuts basic civil rights protections . . . As a member of your committee, as a Senator from North Carolina, as the Senator most familiar with Judge Boyle’s record, and as your colleague, I ask that you not proceed with this nomination . . .1
In fact, due largely to these serious concerns raised by Senator Edwards, Boyle’s nomination did not previously go forward. Despite these concerns, Boyle has been re-nominated and a hearing on his nomination has been scheduled for March 1, 2005.
People For the American Way has carefully reviewed Judge Boyle’s available record and we share the conclusion, reached by Senator Edwards and many others, that Boyle should not be confirmed.2 Our review of Boyle’s record has been guided by the important criteria for confirmation to the federal bench suggested by more than 200 law professors in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2001. As these professors explained, no federal judicial nominee is presumptively entitled to confirmation. Because federal judicial appointments are for life and significantly affect the rights of all Americans, and because of the Senate’s co-equal role with the President in the confirmation process, nominees must demonstrate that they meet the appropriate criteria. These criteria include “an exemplary record in the law,” a “commitment to protecting the rights of ordinary Americans and [not placing] the interests of the powerful over those of individual citizens,” a “record of commitment to the progress made on civil rights, women’s rights and individual liberties,” and a “respect for the constitutional role Congress plays in promoting these rights and health and safety protections, and ensuring recourse when these rights are breached.”3
Judge Boyle’s record during his 20 years as a United States District Court Judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina demonstrates that he does not satisfy the important criteria for confirmation that should be demanded of a federal appellate court nominee. Because the Supreme Court hears so few cases, the federal courts of appeal are in reality the courts of last resort for most Americans, and are crucial to preserving and protecting the rights, liberties, and interests that Americans hold dear. Judge Boyle’s record, however, demonstrates that his nomination is part of the Administration’s goal of packing the federal courts of appeals with right-wing ideologues who will turn back the clock on rights and interests critical to ordinary Americans. During his tenure as a district court judge, Boyle has already tried to turn back the clock by effectively overruling key federal laws and precedents that protect fundamental civil and constitutional rights. A lifetime appointment to the Court of Appeals would place him in an even more powerful position to jeopardize Americans’ rights for decades to come.