Broad Coalition Says Owen is
a “Conservative Activist” and “Out of the Mainstream”
|For Immediate Release:|
For More Information Contact:
|July 9, 2002|
Craig McDonald, 512-472-9770
Austin, TX: A broad coalition of civil rights, women’s rights, labor, reproductive rights, and consumer organizations today announced that they will actively oppose President Bush’s appointment of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
“In seven years on the Texas Supreme Court, Justice Owen has proven herself to be an ultra-conservative activist whose opinions not only stray well beyond the American mainstream, but even run far to the right of the conservative majority of her own court,” said Kae McLaughlin, Executive Director of Texas Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (TARAL). “The Fifth Circuit is in need of moderate judges who will represent and protect mainstream Texans. Priscilla Owen is not a mainstream jurist. Owen is a result-oriented, conservative activist whose nomination should be rejected.”
Owen, who worked as an oil and gas attorney at the firm of Andrews & Kurth before her 1994 election to the Texas Supreme Court, was nominated by President Bush last year to fill a vacancy on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Owen’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to take place this summer, perhaps in the coming several weeks.
According to the groups, Justice Owen’s rulings often favor the interests of corporate Texas or government at the expense of ordinary Texans. Justice Owen’s opinions are outside the mainstream of Texas jurisprudence in the areas of discrimination and employee rights, reproductive rights, sexual harassment, public information rights, environmental protection and consumer and citizen rights.
“As a member of the Texas Supreme Court, Justice Owen has established a record of active opposition to reproductive and women’s rights,” said Danielle Tierney, Planned Parenthood spokesperson. “If approved for a lifetime appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Owen’s judicial activism could roll back rights across the state and throughout the region.”
"Justice Owen has a history defying Texas legal tradition and overturning well-settled precedent," said James C. Harrington, Director of the Texas Civil Rights Project. "She continually sets herself up against the will of the people in her anti-jury opinions. In a Circuit that already has a penchant for reversing rulings favorable to plaintiffs in civil rights cases, especially those involving the Americans with Disabilities Act, the appointment of Justice Owen, with her own penchant for furthering her personal political agenda, will be a disastrous addition to this Court."
“Judge Owen has gone out of her way to seek to undermine the legal rights of working families in Texas,” said Joe Gunn, President, Texas AFL-CIO. “We will vigorously oppose her confirmation to a position that would expand her influence across the south and across the country.”
“Justice Owen is an activist judge who has taken every opportunity to help bend, twist and contort the law to reach her desired outcome,” said Dan Lambe, Executive Director of Texas Watch. “At a time when consumers, investors and workers need protections from the growing amount of deception and fraud in corporate America you could not pick a worse candidate for the Federal bench than Justice Owen.”
“The Fifth Circuit is especially hostile to the rights of individuals issuing some of the most extreme civil rights rulings in the country,” said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice. “The Fifth Circuit is in desperate need of balance. Justice Owen does not offer the needed balance.”
Earlier this year, the Judiciary Committee rejected a Bush nominee, Charles Pickering, and approved another, Edith Brown Clement, to serve on the Fifth Circuit. During the Clinton Administration, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee blocked hearings of three Fifth Circuit nominees, including two Texas Latinos, Jorge Rangel of Corpus Christi and Enrique Moreno of El Paso.
Members of the coalition announced they will travel to Washington, DC in the near future to present their case against Owen’s nomination to the members and staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee and to be present for Owen’s confirmation hearing.
The Texas organizations opposing Owen’s nomination include:
American Association of University Women of Texas
Gray Panthers of Texas
Greater Dallas Coalition for Reproductive Freedom
Planned Parenthood of South Texas
Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region
Planned Parenthood Association of Lubbock
Planned Parenthood of San Antonio & South Central Texas
National Council of Jewish Women, Texas
National Organization for Women, Texas Chapter
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice of Texas
Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (TARAL)
Texas Civil Rights Project
Texas Freedom Network
Texans for Public Justice
Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches
Texas Women's Political Caucus
Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas