"With court decisions on abortion, gay rights, civil liberties and education at stake, not to
mention vacancies on the U. S. Supreme Court, the upcoming elections could tip the scale of
power and set national policy for decades to come." So asserted CBN's White House
correspondent, Melissa Charbonneau on Oct. 1. Truer words were never spoken. The uproar
precipitated recently by the withdrawal of Robert Torricelli from New Jersey's U. S. Senate race
(already involving the state courts and now, possibly, the U. S. Supreme Court) further showcases
the centrality of the courts to all of American life and of the elections of 2002 to the future of the
On the eve of the adjournement of the 107th Congress, this "Court Watch Update" reviews
"The Numbers" (statistics concerning George Bush's judicial nominations) and "The
Nominees" (brief case studies of Senate Democrats' bludgeoning of two of Bush's best
Court Watch has posted on our web page the federal judicial nomination statistics
as of October 1, 2002. These deserve careful scrutiny, as they reveal the high degree of
obstructionism inflicted by liberal Democrats on the judicial selection process. A few other
statistics help to complete this deplorable picture:
Among current active federal judges, 52% have been appointed by Democrat presidents;
49% by GOP presidents (the 100% plus total results from rounding off percentages);
Among current federal judges, 46% are Clinton appointees; the more the Democrat-controlled Senate can stall Bush nominees, the longer Demo appointees will predominate, as most
vacancies are now occurring in GOP-appointed seats;
Of the eleven Court of Appeals nominees constituting Bush's first group of judicial nominees
in May of 2001, 6 (55%) have not even received a Judiciary Committee hearing; 2 (18%) have
had a hearing but were denied floor consideration by the ten Demos on the Committee (nine
Republicans voted to pass the nominees to the entire chamber); and 3 (27%) have had a hearing
but no vote;
These appellate nominees have been stuck in Committee over 500 days, while similar
nominees of our three most recent presidents were confirmed in an average of 81 days;
Also compared to recent presidents, Bush has made 45% more nominations but has
garnered less than 50% of the confirmation rate of his three immediate predecessors.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has subjected several of Bush's Court of Appeals
nominees to what commentator Melissa Charbonneau calls the radical liberals' "scorched earth
policy." Two cameos of Committee treatment of two of Bush's best nominations are especially
Justice Priscilla Owen of the Texas Supreme Court nominated to the Fifth Circuit: The
Committee defeated Owen in a straight party line vote of 9-10. After this rejection, Majority
Leader Tom Daschle said, "The message is this: We will confirm qualified judges. Don't send
us unqualified people." Yet Justice Owen was a college and law school honor graduate, a
twice-elected member of the Texas Supreme Court (elected the second time with 84% of the vote
and the endorsement of every major Texas newspaper); a judge with a record of respect for the
limits of court action and the powers of the legislature and a stated commitment to U. S. Supreme
Court precedents; and the recipient of a unanimous rating of "well qualified" by the ABA (the
Democrats' professed "gold standard" in judicial selection).
Her defeat represents the first time that the Senate has rejected such a recipient and
also a woman nominee. Georgia Democrat Zell Miller had announced that he would support
Owen if her name reached the Senate floor, which would have created a tie vote of 50-50,
undoubtedly broken in Owen's favor by Senate Presiding Office, Vice-President Dick Cheney.
Owen's 4 ½ long hearing was chaired by California Democrat Dianne Feinstein rather than by
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy. Fueled by the ubiquitous liberal interest groups
(National Abortion Rights Action League, People for the American Way, National Organization
for Women, etc.) the radical liberals on the Committee harangued at Owen on non-issues. The radicals found her unacceptable for their universal reason--their fear
that she would be pro-life on the Fifth Circuit. Her decisions upholding parental rights in minors'
abortion cases in Texas fed liberals' fears, and they also accused her of being an "activist." The
hypocrisy of this charge is two-fold: not only did it come from one of the consummate activist
group in America today, but in the parental rights cases disparaged by the radicals, Owens had
upheld parental rights because of her deference to legislative intent in passing the law.
Law Professor Michael McConnell of the University of Utah Law School nominated to the
Tenth Circuit: McConnell was grilled by the Judiciary Committee on a variety of issues.
Like Owen, he was anathema to Committee Demos because of their fears he would be a pro-life
judge. His opposition to gay rights (as evidenced in his role in the Boy Scouts of America v. Dale case and other activities) and his advocacy of government "neutrality" in church-state relations
also absolutely disqualify him for the Tenth Circuit in the minds of the Committees' radical
The Committee was not reassured when McConnell, like Owen, assured the
Committee that he would follow the law regardless of his personal views. Additionally, the
support offered McConnell by over 300 law professors (many of them liberal) fell on deaf ears in
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Courts And Our Constitution!
- Register for our exciting online Eagle Forum University course, "Introduction to
Courting Justice, I;" simply visit our EF web site for quick registration. Class began
Oct. 1, but you can still REGISTER NOW!
- Buy your copy of "Courting Justice: A Guide to Judicial Reform" available from
the Eagle Forum Office, Box 618, Alton, IL.62002.
- Order your copy of the audio cassette, "Our Stake in the 2002 Elections, and
Beyond," by Phyllis Schlafly and Virginia Armstrong; share this with your friends
and your 2002 candidates to make our constitutional/judicial crises the issue it
deserves to be in these elections; order from the Blackstone Institute listed below.
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