- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In his Friday opinion column, “Hypocrisy in Democrats’ Whining,” Washington Times senior editorial writer Quin Hillyer excoriated Democrats’ efforts to block federal judicial nominations during the George W. Bush presidency when differentiating current Republican opposition to President Obama’s judicial nominees.

While I take no position as to which party has the more egregious track record in terms of blocking judicial nominations, as both Democrats and Republicans have a history of such tactics, I do take issue with one of Mr. Hillyer’s comments.

In discussing the nomination of Gus Puryear, Mr. Hillyer wrote that Mr. Puryear’s “sin was to work briefly for Darth Vader himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, which was enough for [Democrats] to block him permanently.”

As the person who coordinated a successful yearlong campaign against Mr. Puryear’s nomination, I can assure readers that Mr. Puryear’s having briefly prepped Mr. Cheney for debates in 2000 and 2004 was a nonfactor in his rejection as a judicial nominee.

Mr. Puryear’s nomination failed because he had conflicts of interest because of his employment with Corrections Corp. of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison company; because he had handled just five federal court cases, most recently a decade ago; because he was a member of a country club that practices racial and gender discrimination; because he made disturbing and inaccurate remarks regarding the death of a female prisoner at a CCA-run jail; and so on.

While the opposition campaign noted Mr. Puryear’s political connections, it did not raise them as an issue. Why not? Because most federal judicial nominees are politically connected, and both parties use such appointments as patronage positions. Mr. Puryear’s nomination was rejected not because of politics but because he was a conflicted, unqualified and inexperienced candidate for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench - which was true regardless of his party affiliation.


Associate editor, Prison Legal News

President, Private Corrections Institute

Nashville, Tenn.

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