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Judge Betty’s Revenge: Conservatives thought they’d sidelined the 9th Circuit’s lion of liberalism [View All]

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usregimechange Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-21-09 12:41 AM
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Judge Betty’s Revenge: Conservatives thought they’d sidelined the 9th Circuit’s lion of liberalism
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Betty Fletcher, 86, is a liberal icon and the most powerful woman in Seattle you've never heard of. Sadly for conservatives, she just won't stop working.

Conservatives thought they’d sidelined the 9th Circuit’s lion of liberalism. They were wrong.
By Nina Shapiro

Ten years ago, federal judge Betty Fletcher said she would step aside. It was late in the Clinton administration, and Congressional Republicans, who'd long had it in for the left-leaning 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where Fletcher presides, were refusing to confirm the President's nomination of Fletcher's son William to the same Circuit as his mother. They called it "nepotism."

As a concession, Fletcher, then 76, agreed to take a form of quasi-retirement known as "senior status." There are loose rules governing "senior" judges, who only have to work one-quarter time to receive full pay. Accordingly, most cut back dramatically and spend the extra time at country clubs or with their grandchildren.

"Let's just say Betty Fletcher is having the last laugh," says Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal Washington, D.C.–based group that monitors judicial nominations. Fletcher's son was confirmed, but she never did reduce her caseload. Today, the white-haired, Seattle-based jurist—who over the course of her career was the first woman in the city to hold virtually every title she assumed—still hears some 620 cases a year, even as she uses a walker to get around her chambers. And she continues to be a thorn in the side of conservative interests. Last year, for example, she bucked President George W. Bush and the U.S. Navy by authoring the opinion of a three-judge panel upholding restrictions on sonar exercises said to harm marine life. The year before that, she tossed out the Bush administration's proposed fuel-efficiency standards for SUVs and "light trucks" as too weak, writing that environmental laws required the administration to take into account greenhouse-gas emissions.

Though practically unknown in her hometown outside legal circles, Fletcher is a high-powered icon of liberalism, the likes of whom may never again get the nod for a federal bench. She's a holdout from an unprecedented era of left-wing judicial appointments under President Jimmy Carter, after which moderates became the name of the game, at least for Democrats. For all the controversy over Sonia Sotomayor, with whom Fletcher shares some traits, the recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice is strictly middle-of-the-road compared to Fletcher.

Federal Judicial Service:
Judge, U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Nominated by Jimmy Carter on July 12, 1979, to a new seat created by 92 Stat. 1629; Confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1979, and received commission on September 26, 1979. Assumed senior status on November 1, 1998.

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