Three judges are flash points in Senate clash
A vote on their nominations Thursday could lead to long-awaited showdown over the federal courts.
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In response, Democrats noted that two of President Clinton's nominees for the same vacancy, Judge Jorge Rangel and lawyer Enrique Moreno, were both denied even a hearing on their nominations when Republicans controlled the Senate.Skip to next paragraph
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Owen, critics say, is a judicial activist whose record shows a bias against the environment and victims of discrimination and medical malpractice. But the most telling critique of the Owen record comes from a voice now inside the Bush administration. As a colleague on the Texas Supreme Court, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales once criticized Owen for an "unconscionable act of judicial activism" by restricting a minor's access to abortion. He now supports her nomination enthusiastically, but the old rebuke still replays often in the debate over her confirmation.
Mr. Boyle, a Reagan appointee, has been a federal district court judge in North Carolina since 1984. His conservative credentials include a brief stint as legislative assistant to former Sen. Jesse Helms in 1973, but critics say the issue in this case is competence, not ideology. Despite a "well qualified" rating from the American Bar Association, Judge Boyle has had 139 of his cases reversed. These range from cases involving age, gender, and racial discrimination to the rights of public employees, according to filings with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Boyle was first nominated to the Fourth Circuit in 1991 by the first President Bush, but the Judiciary panel, then controlled by Democrats, let his nomination lapse. He was renominated in 2001 by the second President Bush, but the nomination was blocked by then-Sen. John Edwards. It's a probable target for a filibuster on the Senate floor.
In opposing the nomination of Ms. Brown, who holds a seat on the California Supreme Court, critics cite positions hostile to consumer protection, worker protection, and the environment. But much of the fireworks has been over her remarks outside the courtroom, including a reference to the New Deal in a 2000 speech as a "socialist revolution."
This week, MoveOn PAC, a liberal advocacy group, launched a 10-day campaign to block her nomination and the nuclear option. At the same time, supporters within conservative, business, and the evangelical communities are ramping up their own media campaigns in support of the president's nominees.
"If you examine somebody's record long enough, you can always find something in anyone's background to point to," says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. "But these are conservative Republicans who are going to rule pretty much the same way as the other Bush appointees who have won their seats on the federal bench."
Supporters say that all three are highly qualified jurists whose records have been unfairly distorted. "When well over 50 percent or over 60 percent of the citizens in those states [California and Texas] vote to support these judges to continue in office on their state supreme court, you'd hardly say that these nominees are out of the mainstream," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona, in a floor statement on Monday.