- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 28, 2003

This article inaccurately reported that California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown would be the first black woman on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court already has a black female judge.

Two influential liberal interest groups yesterday said it would be “disastrous” if the Senate approved a black female judge from California who President Bush nominated in July to serve on the federal circuit court of appeals here in Washington.

A joint report by People for the American Way and the NAACP said California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown is “committed to using her power as a judge” to work against civil and constitutional rights.

Justice Brown is the first black woman to sit on California’s Supreme Court, where she is seen as the most conservative judge on that court. She would also be the first black woman to sit on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which handles many high-profile federal cases and is considered a steppingstone to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Janice Rogers Brown is the far right’s dream judge,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way. “She embodies Clarence Thomas’s ideological extremism and Antonin Scalia’s abrasiveness and right-wing activism.”

And Hilary Shelton, director of Washington’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, accused the Bush administration of hoping “to get some kind of credit because she is the first African-American woman nominated to the D.C. circuit.”

Announced opposition by interest groups has been the catalyst in eventual Democratic filibusters to block several nominees from getting votes on the Senate floor. That is all the more important in Justice Brown’s case since she is following the same path other U.S. Supreme Court justices have taken.

Justice Thomas, for example, served on the D.C. circuit court before being tapped to serve on the Supreme Court. And many observers thought Miguel A. Estrada, another of Mr. Bush’s nominees to the D.C. circuit court who is currently the subject of a Democrat-led filibuster, might also use the court as a steppingstone.

Justice Brown’s defenders said they see a pattern in what Democrats and liberal interest groups are trying to do.

“This report signals the liberal extremist groups have made Judge Brown a candidate for across-the-board opposition, which probably means she will be put on the short list for filibuster when she comes to the Senate,” said Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, which has taken a leading role in defending Mr. Bush’s nominees.

“With Miguel Estrada, and again in this case, we see a highly qualified lawyer who is an ethnic minority and who happens to be conservative again being blocked,” he said. “There’s a real pattern here that seems to establish a Democratic double-standard for conservatives who happen to be ethnic minorities.”

He said the goal seems to be to set up “a double standard so they can’t rise and become credible candidates for the Supreme Court.”

A spokeswoman for the White House did not return a call for comment.

Senate Democrats have blocked three appeals court nominees through filibusters, and are expected to oppose another one on whom a vote was canceled just before the August recess. Republicans have argued that using filibusters to block nominees is a new and extreme tactic, but so far have been unable to break any of the filibusters.

As for Justice Brown, the groups said she injects her judicial rulings with her own conservative opinions.

“That’s what you see over and over again,” said Elliot M. Mincberg, vice president of PFAW. “Her record really shows that she has not been able to separate [her decisions from] her extremely right-wing political philosophy.”

He pointed to a review by the California bar evaluation committee in 1996, which found her unqualified to serve on the Supreme Court because she was “prone to inserting conservative political views in her appellate opinions.”

Pro-choice lobby groups have also said they were concerned with the nomination, pointing to Justice Brown’s dissent in a California case in which she harshly criticized the other justices for overturning a parental-consent law for minors seeking abortions.

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