- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
U.S. Court of Appeals candidate Priscilla Owen told senators that liberal special interest groups have distorted her character in an attempt to deny her a seat on the bench.
"The picture that some special interest groups have painted of me is wrong," Miss Owen said Tuesday at her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.
Mr. Bush selected Miss Owen more than a year ago for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The federal appeals courts are second only to the Supreme Court in the nation's judicial hierarchy.
Miss Owen has faced fierce opposition from liberal groups that say she is pro-business and anti-abortion.
Miss Owen's rulings in cases in support of a Texas law requiring girls to notify parents when having abortions have been a catalyst for opposition. One of those opinions even drew criticism from Mr. Bush's own general counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who served with Miss Owen on the Texas high court.
"There are feelings among some that you are a judicial activist," said California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who supports abortion rights.
However, Miss Owen told Mrs. Feinstein she is a fair and impartial judge and would follow the law as it's written.
"If I am confirmed, I will do my utmost to apply the statutes you have written as you have written them, not as I would have written them or others might want me to interpret them," she said.
Miss Owen's record on cases involving large corporations also has raised eyebrows of committee members, some of them former trial lawyers.
Opponents have pointed to the $8,600 in campaign contributions she accepted from Enron Corp. and a majority opinion that she wrote two years later reducing Enron's taxes by $15 million.
"Owen has demonstrated a commitment to money over morality," National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy said in a statement.
Supporters say those accusations are more an argument against Texas' system for electing judges, than against Miss Owen herself. Texas requires candidates to run for judicial office and does not allow them to remove themselves from cases in which a contributor is involved, said John Nowacki, legal policy director for Free Congress Foundation, which advocates an overhaul of the judicial selection process.
Mr. Nowacki said Miss Owen voluntarily limited 2000 contributions and returned some contributions when she didn't draw any major party opponents.
He also said she has advocated changing the Texas judicial election process.
"She decided all these cases fairly, regardless of who was before her," Mr. Nowacki said.
Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Herb Kohl and Russell D. Feingold, both of Wisconsin, were expected to provide the pivotal votes on recommending whether Miss Owen be confirmed or rejected by the Senate.


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