Neas criticizes Hatch for calling immediate vote on Estrada while announcing additional hearings on rejected nominees Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen
People For the American Way today joined the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in opposing the confirmation of Miguel A. Estrada to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Senate Judiciary Committee Orrin Hatch has called for a vote on Estrada’s nomination on Thursday, January 30.
People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas rejected suggestions that Estrada’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on September 26, 2002 had cleared the way for his confirmation.
“At his confirmation hearing, Mr. Estrada stubbornly refused to answer many important questions from Senators concerning his jurisprudential views and legal philosophy,” said Neas. “There is too much at stake to give someone a powerful a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court without understanding how he will approach fundamental legal and constitutional questions.”
Neas said it was outrageous that on the same day Sen. Hatch announced that there would be a Judiciary Committee vote on Estrada’s nomination next week, he also announced that he would hold additional hearings on appellate court nominees Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen, who were rejected by the Committee last year after in-depth public hearings – two of them in Pickering’s case.
“Sen. Hatch is intent on pushing through a nominee like Miguel Estrada, who revealed as little as possible about his approach to judging,” said Neas. “Yet at the same time, he plans to expend more of the Committee’s time and energy on nominees whose records were examined exhaustively at public hearings and whose nominations were rejected.”
Neas noted that the importance of the Senate’s obtaining candid information from judicial nominees about their legal philosophy and jurisprudential views was stressed by Senator Hatch several years ago:
I believe the Senate can and should do what it can to ascertain the jurisprudential views a nominee will bring to the bench in order to prevent the confirmation of those who are likely to be judicial activists. Determining who will become activists is not easy since many of President Clinton’s nominees tend to have limited paper trails. Nor is there a chemical eye-dropper test we can run which will turn likely activists blue. Determining which of President Clinton’s nominees will become activists is complicated and it will require the Senate to be more diligent and extensive in its questioning of nominees’ jurisprudential views. (Address of Senator Orrin G. Hatch before University of Utah Federalist Society chapter Feb. 18, 1997)(emphasis added)
To the extent that this proposition was valid with respect to the nominees of President Clinton, it is of course equally valid with respect to the nominees of President Bush. As several Senators have explained, Mr. Estrada has a “limited paper trail,” particularly because the Justice Department has refused to release the legal memoranda he wrote while serving in the Department. It is thus all the more important for the Senate to learn his “jurisprudential views.”
Other judicial nominees by President Bush, including some with significant “paper trails,” have discussed their jurisprudential views extensively in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. For example, Michael McConnell, who was recently confirmed to the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, thoroughly discussed his views on such subjects as Roe v. Wade and the Supreme Court’s recent “federalism” or “states’ rights” decisions limiting the authority of Congress.
In contrast, Mr. Estrada refused to reveal his jurisprudential views on these and other subjects in response to questions by Senators. For example, despite repeated attempts by Senator Schumer, he refused to identify even a single Supreme Court decision over the past 40 years with which he disagrees.
“Miguel Estrada’s refusal to answer these basic questions makes it impossible for the Senate to exercise its constitutional advise and consent responsibilities in an informed and careful manner,” said Neas. “When there is doubt about a nominee’s commitment to upholding Americans rights and freedoms, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the Constitution and the country.”
People For the American Way is preparing additional information on Miguel Estrada and other administration nominees. For information on the federal judiciary see www.pfaw.org.