Liberal groups today will highlight the record of a conservative judge as part of their campaign to tarnish President Bush’s judicial nominees as right-wingers who will “seriously threaten the rights of all Americans.”
Such organizations as People for the American Way, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the Alliance for Justice and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights plan a press conference on the “problematic record” of Mississippi District Judge Charles W. Pickering.
“Many of President Bush’s nominees to the appellate courts, recommended by the Federalist Society and other right-wing advocates, have troubling records and could cause serious damage to our rights and liberties,” the groups said in press statement.
The report is expected to include criticism of the pro-life stance of Judge Pickering, who has been nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Pickering was chairman of the first national Republican platform committee that called for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion.
“The Senate should reject far-right court-packing efforts, and should withhold its consent from right-wing nominees who do not demonstrate a commitment to civil rights and liberties,” the groups said. “More moderate, mainstream nominees who reflect genuine bipartisan consultation should receive priority in processing.”
The criticisms were dismissed by key Senate Republicans who said Judge Pickering had been approved by the American Bar Association.
“He’s eminently qualified, supported by a broad group of individuals in our state, including minorities and women and plaintiff’s attorneys and defense attorneys, and Republicans and Democrats. He’s an outstanding individual,” said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.
Judge Pickering was nominated in June, and one hearing was held late last year. Another hearing is expected in the coming weeks, and Republicans are pushing for a vote before the Presidents Day recess next month.
Democrats have stalled the vote by asking for additional information and notes, a tactic Mr. Lott describes as “a classic case of how the committee has kicked the can down the road.”
“This is unnecessary and ridiculous harassment, and I believe that he will get a hearing and he will be confirmed,” Mr. Lott said.
Mr. Bush nominated 64 judges last year, and 28 were confirmed. Yesterday, Mr. Bush nominated an additional 24 judges, bringing the total number now before the Senate to 60.
The groups also are opposing the nominations of Carolyn Kuhl, a California state trial court judge, to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Priscilla Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The chief criticism of these nominees is that all are members of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy, a group of conservatives and libertarians.
According to the Federalist Web site (www.fed-soc.org), the group’s mission “is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”
Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican and chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said Mr. Bush “will appoint exactly who he wants to appoint.”
“That is the responsibility of the president; that is what happens when you win the presidency,” Mr. Craig said.
Mr. Craig said the organizations had the right to speak out but cautioned them to stick to the facts.
“It’s a tragic day in America when you can make political hay by failing to tell the truth,” Mr. Craig said.
Since December, the liberal groups and other feminist organizations have been plotting a “nasty and contentious fight” against Mr. Bush’s judicial nominees who do not support abortion, according to a memo of the groups’ meeting obtained by The Washington Times.
The other organizations include the Ms. Foundation and the National Organization for Women.
The memo detailing a Dec. 6 conference call also cited the groups’ displeasure with the American Bar Association for reviewing only a judicial candidate’s legal background, “not their stand on [abortion] choice or their temperament.”