In an apparent effort to push the President’s federal judicial court nominees towards confirmation, the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee today held hearings on three of the most reactionary of Bush’s Appellate Court nominees. The consolidated hearing for Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook, and federal appellate attorneys John Roberts and Jeffrey Sutton drew criticism from Committee Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) who called it “just a tremendous rush to judgment,” according to the Associated Press.
John Roberts, nominated for the DC Court of Appeals, has signed a brief urging that Roe v. Wade be overturned. He has also argued against civil rights laws being used to protect abortion clinics from forcible blockades by anti-abortion extremists and opposed affirmative action for minority business contractors. Deborah Cook, who is nominated for the 6th Circuit, was endorsed by Ohio Right to Life during her race for a seat on the state supreme court. Critics point to her record, which consistently favors corporate over worker interests and includes a case where an employee–deceived by his employer about the exposure dangers to a toxic chemical at work–was prohibited from suing for his resulting injuries. Jeffrey Sutton, also nominated for the 6th Circuit, received the most scrutiny during the hearing’s morning session. Sutton has advocated excluding state employees from protection by federal civil rights law. In particular, he has argued that state employees should not be protected from age or disability discrimination under the American Disabilities Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act, respectively. Sutton also opposes a provision of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), allowing women to sue their attackers in federal court. At the time of press, the committee hearing had not yet concluded.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on Miguel Estrada’s nomination to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Estrada has not demonstrated a commitment to women’s rights or civil rights and has refused to answer questions about his position on abortion rights or basic civil rights. During his hearing, Estrada was asked whether he thought Roe v. Wade, and Romer v. Evans (the case that struck down Colorado’s anti-gay rights measure), were correctly decided. He declined to answer, stating that he had not read the briefs, listened to the arguments or researched the issues. He gave a similar answer when asked about Supreme Court cases in the areas of environmental protection and labor rights.
Following the Estrada hearing last Fall, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) stated: “I was hoping that the hearing would allay concerns that have been raised about this nomination, but I was left with more questions than answers after all of the steps Mr. Estrada took to avoid answering questions at that hearing.”
The Feminist Majority joins other progressive, feminist organizations in urging that Senators vote against the nomination of Miguel Estrada.