Senate Approves Extremist Bush Nominee Jeffrey Sutton for Lifetime Seat on Powerful Appeals Court


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Administration Push for Judiciary Dominated by Right-Wing Ideologues Continues

The U.S. Senate today confirmed states’ rights extremist Jeffrey Sutton to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, despite the valiant efforts of Sen. Tom Harkin and a number of other senators, and in spite of intense opposition to the nominee from advocates for people with disabilities and public interest groups concerned about Sutton’s impact on civil rights enforcement, environmental protection, and a range of other issues affecting Americans’ daily lives, including the very ability of the federal government to take action to protect individuals or promote the common good.

“One more appeals court vacancy has been filled with a judge who can spend the rest of his life trying to turn back the clock on Americans’ rights, liberties, and legal protections,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. “Today the Senate failed in its obligation to protect Americans from a federal judiciary dominated by right-wing ideologues. But senators will have many more opportunities to take a stand, because the Bush administration continues to nominate judges who are not committed to preserving the protections of our Constitution.”

Neas said Sutton’s confirmation was “extremely disappointing” given his clear public record as one of the nation’s most aggressive advocates for an extreme states’ rights approach to the Constitution, a record documented in People For the American Way reports on his record and confirmation hearing. Neas said that Sutton was “misleading and disingenuous at best” at his confirmation hearing, when he attempted to distance himself from the far-right judicial philosophy that he has championed as a lawyer and legal activist.

Neas said President Bush’s appeals court nominations of Sutton and other right-wing activists follow an ideological blockade erected by some GOP senators during the Clinton administration. From 1995 to 2000, the campaign of stalling and secret holds kept one-third of Clinton’s appeals court nominees off the bench, most without even getting a hearing or vote; others were delayed for up to four years. Because of that blockade and Bush’s aggressive moves to fill those vacancies, by the end of next year virtually all 13 federal appeals courts could be effectively controlled by appointees of the Republican party. If those are right-wing activists rather than more moderate mainstream judges, the consequences will be disastrous. Neas said that the threatened ideological domination of the federal judiciary will make future Supreme Court nominees even more important.

Sutton’s extremism – particularly his aggressive efforts to weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act – had generated opposition to his confirmation from literally hundreds of national, state, and local organizations concerned about the impact of his judicial philosophy on civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, and more.