For the second time this year, President Bush bypassed the Senate by appointing a filibustered judicial nominee while Congress was in recess. In a move designed to attract little attention, Bush on Friday afternoon appointed Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor has openly voiced his opposition to women’s rights and gay rights, calling the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history,” and “the day seven members of our high court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children.” He reaffirmed these statements at his Senate hearing. With the urging of a coalition of women’s rights, civil rights, and lesbian and gay rights organizations, including the Feminist Majority, Senate Democrats had been filibustering Pryor’s nomination.
“It is outrageous that Bush has again circumvented the legal process to appoint a right-wing judicial activist during a Congressional recess,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “This further demonstrates his total disregard for the women of this country and democracy in general.” Under the rules governing recess appointments, Pryor will only serve until the fall of 2005.
In January, Bush bypassed the Senate and appointed Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Senate Democrats had also been maintaining a filibuster against Pickering. Opposed by the Feminist Majority and other women’s and civil rights groups, Pickering, as a state Senator, 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 US 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. Also as a federal district judge, Pickering attempted to intercede in a case to reduce the sentence of a convicted cross burner.