People For the American Way Foundation

Confirmed Judges Confirm Our Worst Fears

A Preliminary Look at How Appellate Judges Nominated by President Bush Are Already Threatening the Rights of Ordinary Americans

President George W. Bush has often stated that he is looking for judges who will interpret the law, not make it. But a new report by People For the American Way Foundation shows that many of the President’s nominees that have already been confirmed to lifetime seats on the federal judiciary are trying to do just that.

Since the Supreme Court takes so few cases, the federal appellate courts are effectively the courts of last resort for the vast majority of Americans. And while these appellate judges have been on the bench for only a short period, a preliminary review of the early decisions and dissents of these controversial Bush nominees shows that a number have written significant opinions on civil rights, constitutional liberties, congressional authority, and related issues.

This is particularly true with respect to Bush-nominated judges who received significant opposition, such as Jeffrey Sutton, Dennis Shedd, Michael McConnell, and John Roberts.

These judges have issued a number of troubling opinions, primarily in dissent, that have sought to:

  • question the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act
  • allow the Bush Administration to keep secret the records of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force
  • overturn National Labor Relations Board rulings against anti-union discrimination and other unfair labor practices by employers
  • re-write by court order a state law regulating First Amendment activity
  • cut back severely on the scope of the federal arson law due to “federalism” concerns

This report shows that concerns raised about these judicial nominees aren’t about politics — they’re about decisions that will affect our lives and liberties for decades to come. Federal judges make decisions that shape our nation, and far-right judges pose a true threat to the hard-won, bipartisan social justice achievements of the past 70 years