Red Meat for Dems; Bush Nominee Pryor Is Capable of Extremism

Article excerpt

Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Adding to the Senate Democrats' attacks on the president's nominations to federal appeals courts, George W. Bush has given his filibustering opponents welcome ammunition by his remarkably misguided nomination of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Were I on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I would unhesitatingly vote against Mr. Pryor, because his clear record and public statements reveal that he would be the very definition of a judicial activist, letting his hostility toward key parts of the Bill of Rights determine his votes. But I would also urge my colleagues to send his nomination to the floor so that the entire Senate can vote on him as the Constitution requires.

I would not vote against Mr. Pryor because he is a conservative in the current battles over nominees, I would have voted for conservatives Priscilla Owen and Charles Pickering, because their opponents have distorted their records. But Mr. Pryor is capable of such extremism that a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court, in a decision written by Antonin Scalia, rejected Mr. Pryor's definition of federalism, which was included in his amicus brief and claimed municipalities have a "state sovereignty" right to be exempted from federal laws (Jinks vs. Richland County).

Not even the 19th-century secessionists advocated such reckless undermining of federal law. And Justice Scalia, dismissing Mr. Pryor's argument, is hardly one of the court's liberals.

As for the separation of church and state, Mr. Pryor, in a speech four years ago to the Christian Coalition, declared unambiguously that "we derive our rights from God and not from government." Why, then, do we have a Constitution in which there is no mention of God, except for the date of the end of the 1787 Constitutional Convention? And what of American citizens who are nonbelievers? If government abuses their rights, have they no recourse but a religious conversion?

With regard to Mr. Pryor's capacity as a judge, to deal fairly with all litigants and their attorneys before him, there is this statement by Mr. Pryor at a rally supporting the display of the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building: "I became a lawyer because I wanted to fight the ACLU the American "Anti-Civil" Liberties Union."

Will "Judge" Pryor recuse himself in all cases in which the American Civil Liberties Union has provided the attorney of record? …