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Owen's Rejection a Victory for Democrats
September 13, 2002
By Nicholas Pyeatt

There have been few victories for the forces of liberty in the past two years. Our president is still as illegitimate as the day he took office and the voices of those who oppose his presidency are quieted by a period of national security problems. Our anachronistic attorney general is steadily eroding the rights that have been struggled for since the signing of the Magna Carta. Our leaders are plotting a war against an irascible Middle Eastern leader whose biggest crime seems to be the fact that he embarrassed our president’s daddy.

Despite all this turmoil, all is not lost in the American republic as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 recently to reject conservative judicial activist, Priscilla Owen.

This is the second major defeat for Bush the Younger when it comes to judicial nominations, the first being Mississippi jurist Pickering. His nominations of extremist justices such as Owen and Pickering to the powerful and lifelong federal bench is a sop to his extremist right wing allies that make up the core of the Republican party.

Though Bush’s own conservatism is based far more on a generic pro-corporate ideology, the grassroots portion of the Republican Party is dominated by social conservatives. It is imperative that our Senate representatives know that we oppose any federal jurists that will not interpret the law as written.

Though now may seem like a time to rest, it is critical that we do not allow our victory in this battle to go to our heads. Republicans throughout the country along with their allies in the corporate media are seeking to use this situation to complain about Democrats “obstructionist” policies. We cannot allow them to lose the battle but win the spin.

We need to remind the American people that when the Republicans regained the Senate in 1994, they did not approve a majority of Clinton’s nominees leading to serious judicial shortages in some areas. Their commonly used tactic was merely not to grant any hearing at all to well qualified and moderate justices. Clinton’s appointees were not extreme in the least and were generally ranked by judicial experts as some of the best qualified in history.

Republicans in the Senate who voted lock-step for Owen did so while distorting large portions of her record. While they played up the fact that she was well educated, they ignored the fact that she was not well respected on the bench and that her opinions seemed geared at nothing so much as advancing her right wing ideology. Her opinions and especially her dissents seem to be based not on laws (or even discussions concerning laws) but upon her own idea of “justice”.

Owen did not deserve a federal judgeship and it is excellent that the Democrats were able to exert a level of solidarity in rejecting her. It is unfortunate that none of the Republicans were able to see past their narrow partisan interests. We should remind voters in their home states that these senators voted as a party to approve a judge to whom moderation was a foreign word.

Democrats in the Senate were not being obstructionist because that implies they were acting only to preserve their own interest. Democrats acted to protect the federal courts from a takeover by extremists. The story here is not the fact that all ten Democrats voted against her, but the fact that Owen received nine more votes than she deserved.


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