Guest Column: The filibuster sideshow

While all the attention has been diverted to the filibuster issue, the reason it is an issue has been lost. Who are the judges and why are some people so opposed to them? What is different about these five (minority leader Harry Reid offered to accept two as a compromise) out of 214 judges confirmed during George W. Bush’s first term. If you Google their names, several pages of sites will pop up. The White House and Department of Justice sites make them all look like saints. Why do so many others disagree?

Priscilla Owen of Texas

Environmental groups: argued that property rights justify giving land owners the power to exempt themselves from water pollution controls and land use safeguards. In that case, the majority, including now-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, stated “most of Owen’s dissent is nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric, and thus merits no response.”

Open Government: wrote an opinion that denied the media access to government documents relating to a sewage plant that had been sued for pollution, ignored state law instead saying disclosure would burden governmental entities.

Employee and consumer rights: usually sides with corporations.

Ethics: took contributions from law firms and corporations, including Enron and Halliburton; when cases came up involving them, she didn’t recuse herself and ruled in their favor. Said law clerks should be able to accept money from future employees, including those with cases before the court.

Janice Brown, California

Environment: favors elevating property rights to a level on par with free speech (one can do almost anything one wants on their property).

Government: wrote “where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies,” believes the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the New Deal “marks the triumph of our own socialist revolution,” stated that under Social Security “today’s senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren.”

William Myers for 9th (Western) Circuit:

Holds similar views on the environment and property rights, also hostile to Native Americans. Has little trial or appellate experience, has never been a judge. Received lowest possible rating from ABA committee. Opposed by law professors in 9th Circuit states.

Henry Saad, Michigan

Injured workers: rejected claims most of the time.

Workers’ rights: in favoring corporations demonstrates “willingness to distort the law or misstate facts to reach decisions.”

Opposed by both Michigan senators. Under Clinton, committee never held hearings if one home state Senator objected, an Ohio law professor never received a hearing despite having the support of both Ohio senators.

Has been active in many Republican political campaigns.

William Pryor, Alabama

Led Alabama as the only state to challenge the Violence against Women Act, urged getting rid of part of the Voting rights Act that protects the rights of African-Americans to vote, urged cutting back on Age Discrimination Act, Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Clean Water Act; called Roe vs. Wade “the worst abomination of Constitutional Law in our history.” Vigorously defended prison officials who had handcuffed prisoners to a hitching post and denied access to water and a bathroom.

President Bush feels these are the best folks we can find for lifetime judge appointments. He has nominated them twice.

Curt Freeberg is a Byron resident.

From the May 25-31, 2005, issue

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