In their continued efforts to stack the federal courts with conservative judges, Republicans held a third cloture vote today on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, considered to be the second most influential court in the nation. As with the first cloture vote held on March 6 and the second on March 13, Republicans were only able to garner 55 votes, 5 short of the 60 necessary to end a filibuster. Estrada has been the target of a five-week filibuster that Democrats say will only end when Estrada reveals his views on critical issues such as abortion and civil rights. Many Senate Democrats have argued that his refusal to answer questions about his views impedes the Senate from having the information necessary to carry out its constitutional “advise-and-consent” duties in confirming presidential appointments. Republicans plan to hold more cloture votes in the coming days.
On March 13, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Priscilla Owen, a nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals defeated in committee last session because of her poor record on women’s and civil rights. During the hearing, Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT) criticized Owen’s record, saying “she is willing to adapt the law to her results-oriented ideological agenda.” He pointed to decisions in cases on the environment, victims of discrimination, medical malpractice, and parental notification requirements for minors seeking abortions that earned her criticism even from her colleagues on the very conservative Texas Supreme Court. Republicans have scheduled a committee vote on Owen’s nomination for Thursday.
Also on March 13, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Jay Bybee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by a vote of 74-19. His nomination has been opposed by gay and lesbian rights groups. Republicans also plan to bring the nominations of Jeffrey Sutton, Deborah Cook, John Roberts, and Tim Tymkovich to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.
The Feminist Majority joins a wide variety of civil rights and women’s rights groups in opposing the nominations of Estrada, Sutton, Cook, Roberts, Tymkovich, and Owen.