WASHINGTON - January 23 - As the Senate returns to Washington to resume consideration of President Bush's nominees to federal appeals courts, a new report by People For the American Way Foundation tracks early decisions and dissents of Bush Administration judges already serving on the federal appeals courts. The first wide-ranging report on these judges uncovers "deeply disturbing" trends - including denial of workplace protections against discrimination, a willingness to curb individual rights, and efforts to curtail Congress's ability to protect the rights and interests of all Americans.
"As Senators consider controversial nominees, they should examine what Bush Administration judges already sitting on the bench have done," said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation. "Our preliminary look at their rulings has raised a number of red flags. These decisions in the first months of lifetime appointments clarify the dangers of the Bush Administration plan to pack the appeals courts with far-right judges."
Late last week, President Bush took the extraordinary step of using a recess appointment to install controversial Judge Charles Pickering on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Bush also recently re-nominated another controversial appellate court candidate, Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Claude Allen.
Both moves signal renewed efforts to push the handful of controversial appellate court nominees that the Senate has refused to confirm, such as Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. In addition, other controversial nominees may be considered this year, including former White House counsel Brett Kavanaugh and former Interior Department Solicitor William Myers. Today's report underlines the need for careful Senate scrutiny of such nominees.
The report, "Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears," examines divided opinions on civil rights and similar issues in which Bush-nominated appellate judges participated, particularly nominees who received significant opposition, like Jeffrey Sutton. The report highlights troubling opinions and dissents that sought to:
- deny protection to workers who filed claims of racial discrimination in the workplace
- allow Vice President Cheney to keep records of his energy task force secret
- let a controversial logging plan continue while a lawsuit to stop it was pending
- cut back on the scope of federal criminal laws, including the federal arson statute
- deny protections to individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act
- disregard established precedent to favor a bank over a farm family in bankruptcy
- give immunity to government officials who conducted unconstitutional strip searches
- re-write by federal court order a state law regulating First Amendment rights
"This report shows that concerns raised about these judicial nominees aren't about politics - they're about decisions that will affect our lives and liberties for decades to come. Federal judges make decisions that shape our nation, and far-right judges pose a true threat to the hard-won, bipartisan social justice achievements of the past 70 years," said Neas.
The new report is available at www.pfaw.org/go/confirmed_fears. A number of earlier reports on judicial nominations under the Bush Administration are available at www.pfaw.org/go/independent_judiciary.