President Bush renamed several anti-women judicial nominees yesterday including Charles Pickering and Priscilla Owen – both nominated to the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and both rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee last year. With the Senate now controlled by Republicans, Bush renominated the two in hopes that they could now be pushed through, White House officials told the Washington Post.
Bolstered by continued opposition from the Feminist Majority as well as other leading women’s rights, civil rights and progressive organizations, Democrats voiced commitments to block the Pickering nomination, because of the Mississippi judge’s anti-women and anti-civil rights background. “We will use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that his nomination is rejected again this year,” Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) told the New York Times. Democrats Charles Schumer (NY) and Richard Durbin (IL) told the CQ Daily Monitor that they would consider a filibuster against the nominee. Schumer commented on Bush’s nomination of Pickering that “When it comes to civil rights, this administration has been talking a good game, but has consistently ignored the need to move civil rights and racial issues forward,” according to CQ. Pickering has a long history of voting against women. As a state Senator, Pickering supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and chaired the subcommittee of the National Republican Party that in 1976 approved a plank calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to make abortion illegal. Pickering has opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and as a district court judge, criticized remedies provided by the Voting Rights Act to redress discrimination against African-American voters.
Owen, currently a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, has been called too ideologically far to the right by even her conservative colleagues – White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who served with Owen on the Texas court, characterized one of her opinions on judicial bypass as “an unconscionable act of judicial activism.” Owen has consistently voted against reproductive rights for women. In one ruling Owen cited religious considerations as a condition for a teenager seeking judicial bypass of a parental consent for an abortion.
Bush also made 29 other nominations for judicial positions including Miguel Estrada and John Roberts for the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, which is known as the second most powerful court in the nation. Estrada has no record on reproductive rights, an absence of which the Feminist Majority and other women’s rights groups believe is cause for concern. He is a partner in the Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher law firm that represented Bush before the US Supreme Court during the 2000 post election legal fight. Roberts, who was first nominated by former President Bush, was a clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, former deputy solicitor general under Kenneth Starr and has been called “outspokenly conservative.”