In a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, far-right judicial nominee Carolyn Kuhl carefully refused to clarify her viewpoints on abortion rights and retracted past statements in which she supported discrimination and sexual harassment. Kuhl started the hearing by telling Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that she regretted a position she vigorously advocated as a young lawyer in the Reagan administration’s Justice Department that the IRS should grant Bob Jones University tax-exempt status despite racially discriminatory policies.
Kuhl was then questioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) about her positions on abortion rights and whether she believed that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. “I’m not comfortable giving my opinion as to whether any Supreme Court precedent was correctly decided,” Kuhl responded. “That’s not my job as a judge.”
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) refused to accept this answer and asked Kuhl about a brief written by the Reagan administration’s Justice Department. The memo Kuhl wrote about the brief was characterized by then Solicitor General Charles Fried as the “most aggressive memo” advocating the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Kuhl replied that she was merely representing Reagan’s views. She then restated her position that Roe v. Wade was settled law that she would uphold if appointed to the Ninth Circuit. “Simply saying ÔI will follow the law’ is not good enough,” Schumer retorted. “It simply does not work that way on the bench – otherwise we would have a computer that would follow the law.”
Schumer also probed Kuhl’s ruling as a California Superior Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a woman against her doctor, a pharmaceutical company and a pharmaceutical sales representative for invasion of privacy after the sales rep stood in on a breast exam without her consent. “I don’t think I’ve seen a more disturbing ruling from a judicial nominee,” Schumer noted. Kuhl told Schumer that she had made a wrong decision in the case and was glad that her ruling was overturned on appeal.
Kuhl’s nomination is part of the larger attempt by the Bush Administration to stack the federal courts with right-wing, reactionary judges. “Not only is Bush the first president to appoint a smaller percentage of women to the federal bench than his predecessor, but the women he is nominating are Scalia in a skirtÑwomen who never saw a woman’s legal right that they wanted to uphold,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.