Nominees Deserve Better; Democrats' Smear Tactics Irresponsible

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 20, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Nominees Deserve Better; Democrats' Smear Tactics Irresponsible


Byline: Elizabeth Dole, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

As the battle over judicial nominees and the role of the filibuster reaches its decisive moment, let's remember that more is at stake than the rules and procedures of the Senate.

Resorting to half-truths and invective to advance a political objective - the establishment of a new 60-vote supermajority requirement for the confirmation of federal judges - is deeply unfair to those who have spent a lifetime building reputations for fairness and intellectual probity.

Take the case of two women now at the center of the filibuster controversy, Justices Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown. In describing Justices Owen and Brown, some of my Democratic colleagues and their allies have employed phrases like "far out of the mainstream," "radical extremists," "far-right partisans," "hostile to civil rights" and "right-wing judicial activists."

It's been suggested that Justice Owen is too cozy with corporate interests at the expense of consumers. And one publication even called Justice Brown, an African-American who currently sits on the California Supreme Court, a "Jim Crow-era judge, in natural blackface." These irresponsible charges, intended not to fairly describe an individual but to create a caricature of that individual in the public's mind, will likely be leveled again as the issue of judicial nominations comes to a head on the Senate floor.

The record, of course, tells a different story. Justice Owen was twice elected to the Texas Supreme Court after enjoying a 17-year career as a litigator in a prominent Texas law firm. She earned the highest score on the December 1977 Texas bar exam and ranked at the top of her class at the Baylor University School of Law. Justice Owen has been endorsed by a bipartisan group of 15 past presidents of the Texas state bar. An advocate for providing pro bono legal services to the poor, she also received a unanimous "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association, the highest rating given by that organization. And in her last election to the Texas Court, Justice Owen earned a stunning 84 percent of the vote and was endorsed by every major newspaper in the Lone Star state.

I know of no "extremist" with such a distinguished record and broad public support.

For her part, Justice Brown is apparently guilty of the unpardonable sin of supporting private property rights, noting that the Constitution protects these rights through the Fifth Amendment's takings clause. This stance so enrages the left that they have preposterously accused her of trying to undo the New Deal.

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