- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2003

Women's rights groups are lobbying furiously against several of President Bush's female nominees to the federal bench, charging that they are nothing more than "Scalia in a skirt."
Ms. Magazine and the National Organization for Women have been some of the most vocal opponents to a few women whose nominations are expected to be debated by the Senate starting this week.
"The women he is nominating are Scalia in a skirt," said Ms. Magazine's Eleanor Smeal, referring to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. They "never saw a woman's legal right that they wanted to uphold."
Ms. Magazine, a major feminist publication, distributed fliers at a hearing the magazine was covering earlier this month for a California judge nominated by Mr. Bush nearly two years ago. The fliers denounced the women as "Scalia in a skirt" and, at the same time, condemned Mr. Bush for not nominating more women.
Other groups, such as NOW, accuse the nominees of being too conservative to be proper representatives for women on the federal bench.
Taking up the cause, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, accused California Judge Carolyn Kuhl of being insensitive to women, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said the nominees are "engaged in a campaign to roll back the clock on women's rights."
Outraged supporters of the Bush nominees say the women are being held to a new kind of litmus test, one that demands lock-step agreement among women, that applies only to women and minority groups.
"A group of well-qualified women and minorities are nominated to the court, but they're not women enough or minority enough," said Don Stewart, spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. "That borders on racism and bigotry."
Judge Kuhl, nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has been attacked for questioning privacy rights and challenging the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which guarantees a woman's right to abortion.
At her hearing earlier this month, Judge Kuhl was lectured by Mr. Schumer for ruling against a woman who sued because her doctor brought in a friend during a breast examination. A lawsuit against the doctor was left standing, but Judge Kuhl dismissed a claim against the friend's employer.
"I have asked five or six women," Mr. Schumer said, peering over his reading glasses at Judge Kuhl in disbelief. "To a person, they are outraged. Outraged."
California lawyer Vilma Martinez, a former law partner of Judge Kuhl, has watched the judicial nomination process for years. She is a registered Democrat and testified against Robert Bork, President Reagan's nominee to the Supreme Court, and watched in anger as some of President Clinton's nominees were stalled by Republicans.
"This turnabout is not fair play," Ms. Martinez wrote in a letter to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It is the continuation of a vicious cycle that punishes worthy judicial candidates in a misguided effort to use the judiciary to further narrow political ends."
Another contentious nominee is Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit in January after she was rejected last year by a Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Many of the judicial nominees, including Justice Owen, have demonstrated hostility to women's reproductive freedom and their nominations must be rejected," reads the Web site for Planned Parenthood, which claims partial responsibility for defeating Justice Owen's nomination last year.
At issue for abortion-rights groups is that Justice Owen limited the ability for juveniles to obtain abortions without informing their parents, as required in most cases by Texas law.
"Justice Owen's dissents in a series of cases regarding the rights of young women to obtain an abortion reveal a disturbing willingness to misread or distort the law to support her view," Mr. Kennedy said.
In a conference call with reporters last week, Mr. Cornyn noted that Utah Judge Michael McConnell was unanimously confirmed by the Senate to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals even though he openly challenges the right to abortion.
"The 1950s housewife era, when a woman had to think certain ways, are over," said Mr. Stewart, spokesman for Mr. Cornyn. Justice Owen is "a distinguished member of the Texas Supreme Court, and she should be judged on that, not on whether she conforms to some view that women are supposed to have."
Also targeted by women's rights groups is Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook, nominated to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


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