A coalition of progressive, civil rights, and feminist groups, including the Feminist Majority, held a press conference today to voice opposition to President Bush’s right-wing nominees for the federal courts. Jeffrey Sutton, nominated to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Priscilla Owen, nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, are scheduled for full Senate votes this week. “The Senate must stop Bush’s court stacking if we are to save 40 years of women’s rights and civil rights progress,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “At stake is not only Roe v. Wade but also decisions that help protect women from sexual harassment and that increased employment and educational opportunities for women.”
Jeffrey Sutton, a leading activist in the so-called “states’ rights” movement, has spent his legal career undermining the rights of women, minorities and the disabled. Sutton is opposed by more than 400 disability, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental, labor and other groups. He has personally argued several key Supreme Court cases that have severely limited Congress’ ability to prevent discrimination based on race, age, disability and religion. As an officer for the Separation of Powers practice group for the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, Sutton has made no secret about his intentions to roll back the clock for women’s rights. The New York Times today editorialized against Sutton, warning that “in a nation brimming with legal talent, it is unacceptable to focus the search for federal judges on a narrow group of ideologues.”
Priscilla Owen, currently a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, has been nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for the second time. Last year, she was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee for her consistently anti-women’s rights and anti-workers’ rights rulings. In every abortion-related opinion on the Texas Supreme Court, Owen has voted against abortion rights. In one ruling, Owen cited religious considerations as a condition for a teenager seeking judicial bypass of a parental consent for an abortion.
“Senate Republicans have coined this week ‘Judges Week’ in open declaration of their determination to ram through such far-right nominees as Jeffrey Sutton and Priscilla Owen. The Senate Democrats must stand up and fight as they have been doing with Miguel Estrada,” Smeal said. “At this time of global turmoil, we don’t need extremists in the courts willing to make a Dred Scott decision in the area of women’s fundamental rights.”