- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

President Bush's highest-profile female judicial nominee is expected to be defeated in a party-line vote today, following an opposition campaign organized by the Clinton administration's top ranking advocate for working women.
Republicans say they expect Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen will be denied a full Senate vote for the seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals today in the Judiciary Committee.
Organizing opposition against Justice Owen is Karen Nussbaum, the former director of the Women's Bureau in the Labor Department, now charged by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to head the union's Working Women Department.
According to Miss Nussbaum's biography, "President Clinton declared her uniquely qualified to serve as chief advocate for the nation's 60 million working women."
In an eight-page memo, Miss Nussbaum and Richard Womack, AFL-CIO civil rights director, urged leadership of women's organizations to help knock down the nomination because of her "problematic record on worker's rights."
"We hope you will be able to use this information as we work to defeat this dangerous jurist," said the memo, obtained by The Washington Times. "The Fifth Circuit needs balance, not conservative judicial activists," the memo said.
Anticipating the rejection, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush "would be very disappointed that the Senate would once again have chosen the course of partisanship over progress."
The first committee confirmation vote was canceled prior to the August recess to allow Justice Owen more time to answer questions from the committee. Today's vote was expected to be postponed due to the death of Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s father.
Mr. Biden, Delaware Democrat, was considered a possible swing vote in Justice Owen's favor but yesterday filed his vote by proxy, leaving Capitol Hill observers to speculate Justice Owen will be defeated.
The opposition is frustrating Senate Republican leaders, who say Justice Owen was rated "well qualified" by the American Bar Association but is being attacked with "orchestrated deceptions, distortions and demagoguery."
"With the attempt by some to introduce ideology and base politics into the confirmations process, today a sword of Damocles hangs over the future of nominations and our constitutional role, and no vote will hint the future more than this upcoming vote on Justice Owen," Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking Judiciary Committee member, said in a floor speech Tuesday night.
"The main reason Justice Owen is being opposed is because she is a woman in public life who is believed to have personal views that some maintain are unacceptable for a woman in public life to have," Mr. Hatch said.
The memo accuses Justice Owen of authoring a "troubling series of rulings" in worker compensation cases. "Her rulings reflect a disturbing tendency to interpret the law in a manner that undermines workers' ability to obtain redress for workplace injuries," the memo said.
Mr. Hatch says Justice Owen has never digressed from the rule of law.
"The charge that she is a judicial activist is a cynical trick of words from Washington lobbyists who have made their careers defending court decisions of real judicial activists who never let the words of the Constitution stand between them and their social engineering," Mr. Hatch said.
Justice Owen's and other stalled nominations have become an issue in the Texas Senate race between Republican Attorney General John Cornyn and Democratic Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.
Mr. Cornyn has criticized Mr. Kirk for writing a fund-raising letter saying he would prevent Republicans from "packing the federal courts with conservative jurists who oppose Democratic rights and principle."
"The voters in that state should hold the party accountable," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and Judiciary Committee member.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said that if Justice Owen is defeated, it will strain already tense relationships on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, Democrats blocked District Judge Charles W. Pickering of Mississippi from a full Senate vote.
"I'm still hoping that some Democrat, any Democrat, or every Democrat, will vote to confirm this very qualified woman from the Texas Supreme Court," said Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican.
The full Senate has confirmed 13 circuit court judges with 19 judges pending.

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