When Congress returns from recess next week, on the agenda will be debate and possible votes on the Senate floor on the nominations of Jeffrey Sutton to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats will continue their three-month filibuster of Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, widely considered to be second only to the US Supreme Court in importance.
The New York Times joined the opposition last week in an editorial supporting the Estrada filibuster and recommending a filibuster of Owen’s nomination as well. Yesterday, in an editorial that sharply criticized much of Bush’s domestic agenda, the Times voiced concern that Bush is “turning the federal courts into places unfriendly to environmentalists, civil rights advocates, corporate whistle-blowers and anyone else who attempts to do battle against the interests of big business…” through his insistence on trying to stack the courts with “knee-jerk right-wing” ideologues. The Times indicated that opposition to abortion was a common thread with Bush’s federal court nominees and, furthermore, “opposition to reproductive rights has been one of the strongest underlying themes of his presidency.”
Jeffrey Sutton is opposed by more than 400 disability, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental, labor and other groups. The preeminent states’ rights lawyer in the country, Sutton has worked to limit Congress’ ability to protect the civil and constitutional rights of citizens. Sutton has advocated that state workers receive less protection from discrimination based on religion and on disability and that states be allowed to use testing procedures, like English-only driver’s license tests, that discriminate against non-native speakers.
Priscilla Owen was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year for her consistently anti-women’s rights, anti-workers’ rights rulings. Renominated by Bush, she is a right-wing ideologue with views even more extreme than some of her conservative colleagues on the Texas State Supreme Court. Her opinions as a Texas State Supreme Court Justice show that she is hostile to abortion rights, will support lawmakers’ attempts to limit women’s access to abortion, and will create obstacles not even considered by lawmakers in order to make it more difficult for a woman to have a safe, legal abortion.