The Bear River Band had never taken a stand on a US judicial
nomination, not until William Myers - who once approved mining on
lands deemed sacred to another native American tribe - was nominated
for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench.
"There are some things done to some tribes [to which] the rest of
us just say, 'Oh no!' " says tribal vice-chairwoman Janice McGinnis
in Loleta, Calif.
So, knowing nothing more about Mr. Myers, she signed off on a
protest letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some 175 groups
have signed similar letters to derail President Bush's nomination of
the former Interior Department solicitor general to the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals - a sign of how deeply outside groups are
engaging in Senate confirmations.
Although the Myers nomination cleared the Senate Judiciary
Committee on a party-line vote last week, it will run into a full-
court filibuster when it hits the floor of the Senate, as early as
this week. In fact, Senate Democrats say all Bush nominations will
be blocked, unless the White House agrees to stop making "recess
appointments," done during congressional breaks to bypass Senate
The season of gridlock came early to Capitol Hill this spring. In
a normal political cycle, presidents usually have until the summer
to get judicial nominations through the Senate. The window is
closing early this year due to the intense politicization of the
process, and the perception that courts are, if anything, an
increasingly important branch of government.
"The future of the federal judiciary is the single most important
domestic issue facing America, and the next eight months could
determine what the law of the land will be for 20 or 30 years," says
Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, which has
taken a lead in organizing opposition to Bush judicial nominations.
"That's why we take it so seriously."
Indeed, while the partisan logic of obstruction is present on
other issues from welfare reform to the budget, courts are the big
flash point. "The Democrats are trying to rev up their base by
turning [judicial nominations] into a mano a mano confrontation,"
says Sheldon Goldman, a political scientist at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst.
The Senate has confirmed 173 of the president's judicial
nominees, but three have been rejected by Democrats who said they
were "outside the mainstream" and "had troubling records of judicial
activism in service to extreme ideology. …