Owen is perfect candidate for filibusterby Kae McLaughlin, Director of TARAL
SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Monday, April 28, 2003
Members of the U.S. Senate recently flexed their constitutionally granted muscle and blocked the nomination of Miguel Estrada for a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Court of Appeals. By exercising their historic right to filibuster -- which can only be broken by a super-majority of 60 votes -- senators prevented a slender majority from embracing extremism and appointing a
nominee with a long, but secret, legal record for a lifelong position on the federal bench.
Following the Easter recess, Senators again have the chance -- and should eagerly take it -- to filibuster another nominee: Priscilla Owen. As a nominee for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Owen -- with a clear, public record of extreme, judicial activism -- threatens to roll back abortion, consumer and women's rights for generations to come. For these reasons, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee rejected her last year, deeming her too extreme to be entrusted with lifetime federal court powers.
When anti-choice leaders took control of the Senate in January, President Bush took the unprecedented step of renominating Owen. Instead of moderate nominees who would enjoy mainstream, bipartisan support, Bush renominated a filibuster waiting to happen.
Owen's record of activist meddling with abortion rights is so extreme that even Bush White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales is on record against it. In 2001 and 2002, with then-Justices Gonzales and Owen on Texas' all-Republican Supreme Court, the court issued a series of rulings on a parental notification law for minors seeking abortions. In these cases, Owen repeatedly clashed with the majority, opposing the young women in every case.
In one case, Gonzales noted that the majority had followed the law's parental notification mandate and that doing otherwise, as Owen advocated, "would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism." In another Jane Doe case, Owen belittled a minor's fear of parental abuse, prompting the majority to write, "Abuse is abuse; it is neither to be trifled with nor
its severity to be second guessed."
Owen violates Bush's own pledge to appoint "strict constructionists" who interpret laws rather than activist judges who impose new laws from the bench. As such, it is difficult to interpret Bush's aggressive renomination of Owen as anything but a gift to the far-right wing of his party.
Today, Roe v. Wade dangles by a one-vote margin in the U.S. Supreme Court. The groundwork for losing this and other cherished constitutional protections is to let activist ideologues such as Owen slip onto our federal appeals courts. Indeed, the circuit courts hear the overwhelming majority of constitutional cases.
An extremist by even Texas standards, Owen would use her position on the 5th Circuit to roll back reproductive and women's rights in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi for generations to come. Bush was spoiling for a fight when he renominated this controversial judge.
Will moderate senators grant Owen the filibuster that, like Estrada, she so richly deserves?