- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 6, 2003

The Senate confirmed Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah L. Cook to the federal bench yesterday, nearly two years after President Bush nominated her.On a 66-25 vote, the Senate confirmed Justice Cook to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals four days shy of the second anniversary of her nomination.”We have elevated an honorable jurist and an excellent judge who exercises proper judicial restraint on the bench,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee. “She has a distinguished record in private practice, she is a legal pioneer, and she is active in her community.”But, Mr. Hatch said, it took too long.Liberal-interest groups and some Democrats opposed Justice Cook because she ruled in favor of corporations in several personal injury cases and sided with an employer who fired an employee for refusing on religious grounds to cut his hair to meet dress-code specifications.Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, spoke on the floor yesterday urging the rejection of Justice Cook, calling her too conservative to be on the bench that covers Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.”Her record demonstrates the extreme length she will go to protect corporations and deny the rights of injured workers, victims of discrimination, religious minorities, schoolchildren and others,” he said.Justice Cook was voted out of the Judiciary Committee in February on a bipartisan vote. Only Mr. Kennedy and Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, opposed her in the committee.Since then, Republicans had been unable to reach an agreement with Democrats to bring Justice Cook’s nomination to the floor for a vote by the full Senate.During yesterday’s vote, there seemed to be some confusion about how Democrats would vote.Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, walked into the chamber and read Justice Cook’s name from the Democrats’ policy table on the Senate floor. She walked over to fellow Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat, and asked how he voted.Mr. Breaux said he voted in favor of Justice Cook, and then Mrs. Landrieu cast her vote in favor as well.Any hope that the bitter partisanship over judicial nominations had ended with Justice Cook’s broad, bipartisan support evaporated less than two hours later when Democrats voted for a fifth time to continue the filibuster against Washington attorney Miguel Estrada. Democrats voted to block Mr. Estrada’s nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.Justice Cook and Mr. Estrada were nominated by Mr. Bush at the same ceremony as Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who was named to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Justice Owen’s nomination is also being filibustered.The impasse over Mr. Bush’s nominees has gotten so tense that the only thing both sides seem to agree on is that the judicial nominating process is badly broken.Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee, will hold a hearing today called “Judicial Nominations, Filibusters, and the Constitution: When A Majority Is Denied Its Right to Consent.”Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, is one of Mr. Estrada’s home state senators.”In the last election, the people voted against obstructionism,” he said after the fifth vote to end debate on the Estrada nomination had failed.Mr. Allen said he has a message for the Democrats who won’t allow a final vote on Mr. Estrada: “Have the guts to stand up and vote yes or no and explain to your constituents why you did.”



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