By a vote of 52-41, the Senate confirmed the nomination Jeffrey Sutton to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday. One of the Republicans’ first successes of their so-called “Judges Week” of pushing through Bush’s right-wing nominees, Sutton’s confirmation occurred mostly along party lines. Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Ben Nelson (NE) broke ranks to support his nomination. The Chicago Sun-Times reported today that no other federal court judge has received such a small number of votes since 1986. With 41 votes, Democrats could have sustained a filibuster had they so chosen.
Jeffrey Sutton was opposed by more than 400 disability, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental, labor and other groups. The morning of the vote, the Feminist Majority joined coalition members, some of who had traveled across the country from great distances, for a rally in the Capitol opposing Sutton’s nomination. The close to 200 participants packed into the room and were spilling out into the hallway in order to speak out against Sutton, a leading activist in the so-called “states’ rights” movement.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) asserted passionately to the crowd, “Your rights shouldn’t depend on your address.” Other speakers included ADA Watch President Jim Ward, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Executive Director Wade Henderson, People for the American Way President Ralph Neas, the Gallaudet University student body President, Feminist Majority Director of National Programs Alice Cohan, and students from a deaf school in Rochester, NY who had driven through the night to attend. A large contingent from the rally then went to the Senate reception area where they lobbied Senators arriving for the vote.
Just one part of Bush’s court stacking plan, Jeffrey Sutton has worked to limit Congress’ ability to protect the civil and constitutional rights of citizens. Sutton has advocated that state workers receive less protection from discrimination based on religion and on disability and that states be allowed to use testing procedures, like English-only driver’s license tests, that discriminate against non-native speakers. 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.