People For the American Way Criticizes Committee’s Vote Recommending Right-Wing Nominees for Appeals Courts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 14, 2002

Contact: Nathan Richter or Tracy Duckett at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

PFAW Rejects Notion that Mid-Term Election Victories Represent Mandate to Pack Courts with Right-Wing Ideologues

WASHINGTON — People For the American Way strongly criticized today’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote to recommend for confirmation the nominations of Judge Dennis Shedd to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Professor Michael McConnell to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Both nominations now head to the Senate floor.

“Today’s committee vote, while not unexpected, was deeply disappointing. For the past 16 months, the Senate Judiciary Committee has conscientiously carried out its constitutional responsibilities. Nearly 100 conservative judicial nominees were reported out of Committee. But the Committee rejected a number of nominees whose right-wing judicial philosophies would have turned back the clock on civil rights, environmental protections, reproductive rights and privacy, and so much more,” said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas. “Today, however, was a setback for those committed to protecting fundamental rights and liberties. I hope that a number of Senate Democrats will swiftly regain their footing.”

And Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans must regroup quickly, Neas said. Despite an incredibly narrow margin of victory in several states that shifted control of the Senate, President George Bush, Senator Trent Lott and Senator Orrin Hatch and their right-wing allies now claim a mandate to have the Senate become a rubber stamp for the president’s judicial nominees, Neas said.

“There is certainly no national mandate to take away a woman’s constitutional right to choose, weaken strong environmental protections, or undermine civil rights principles that have been part of our constitutional framework for decades,” Neas said. “In the weeks and months ahead, Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans must resist the politics of intimidation. They must stand up and fight on behalf of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They must not allow right wing jurists to control the Supreme Court and all 13 circuit courts. Over the next two years, the Senate will be the battleground that will determine what the law of the land will be for the next several decades.”

PFAW had voiced opposition to the nominations of both Shedd and McConnell. Shedd’s record includes harmful decisions on federalism and a series of decisions hostile to fundamental civil rights principles. Among other things, McConnell has stated his opposition the landmark Supreme Court decision on ‘one person, one vote,’ has criticized the Supreme Court decision that withheld tax-exempt status from Bob Jones University because of the university’s policy of racial discrimination, and has been unrelentingly hostile to a constitutional right to privacy and reproductive choice, advocating the reversal of Roe v. Wade.