In a 10-9 vote along partisan lines, the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the federal court level just below the US Supreme Court. “This is an important milestone,” said Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal, “and the vote sends a strong message to President Bush that he has no mandate to stack the federal bench against women’s rights and civil rights.”
“The direction of the federal bench is at stake,” Smeal urged. “We must not lose the federal bench to the right and allow the nation to move backwards on women’s rights and civil rights.” If all of Bush’s nominees to the Circuit Courts of Appeal were to be confirmed, 10 of these 12 courts would be dominated by right-wing, conservative judges. The Circuit Courts of Appeal is the last resource for the majority of litigants on reproductive rights and other critical issues; 99 percent of federal cases will be settled in the Circuit Courts. Fewer than 100 federal cases will reach the Supreme Court.