Don't Have Something Nice to Say? Court of Appeals Nominee Receives Unfounded criticism.(NATION)

Article excerpt


Longtime court of appeals nominee Priscilla Owen got a Senate hearing yesterday.

President Bush nominated the Texas Supreme Court justice to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in May 2001. As with Charles Pickering, her opponents are using half-truths and outright lies to misrepresent her character and record.

That record is one any nominee would be proud of. Justice Owen received a unanimous "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association, a source that Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy calls "the gold standard." She is supported by 15 past presidents of the Texas Bar, both home-state senators and numerous colleagues, past and present. Justice Owen was also re-elected to the state Supreme Court in a landslide two years ago, winning the endorsement of every major Texas newspaper in the process.

With her qualifications, temperament and experience, she is the right person for the job. She also understands the difference between judges and legislators, something important to Americans alarmed by activist decisions like the recent Pledge of Allegiance ruling.

Naturally, that gives the liberal groups fits. They want nominees with the right political beliefs, not ones who leave their politics at the courthouse door - and they would love to defeat a judge from Mr. Bush's home state.

Their attacks on Justice Owen fall into two categories - parental notification and business generally. A glance at her record shows how baseless those attacks really are.

Texas, in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, passed a law requiring girls to notify their parents before getting an abortion. A girl who didn't want to tell her parents could receive a judicial bypass if she met a legal standard. As the legislators envisioned it, that would be the exception rather than the rule.

Justice Owen's court reviewed several requests for a bypass after the lower courts denied them. None of the girls met the legal standard, and the cases were remanded with instructions to review them in light of certain aspects of the statute. Was she making a reasoned decision? Was this in the girl's best interest? Would she suffer "emotional abuse" if she notified her parents? And so on. One bypass was finally granted, and the justices naturally disagreed at times about how to apply the statute or what exactly an appellate court should do. But throughout, Justice Owen applied the law and precedent.

Not that you would know it from what her critics say. …