In their zeal to bar conservatives from the federal bench-especially those who appear to have the potential for later elevation to the Supreme Court-Senate Democrats have chosen to mount their most aggressive anti-confirmation battles against President Bushs minority and female nominees, a conservative legal group is charging.
This disparity of treatment, say members of the Committee for Justice (CFJ), is most clearly demonstrated by the Democratic opposition to Carolyn Kuhl, whom Bush has nominated to the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
Kuhl, whom liberal groups are referring to as “Scalia in a skirt,” is a California Superior Court judge who served as deputy assistant attorney general under President Reagan. Senate Democrats are currently considering preventing Kuhls confirmation by filibuster, just as they are currently filibustering the appellate court nominations of Miguel Estrada, an Hispanic, and Priscilla Owen, who, like Kuhl, is a conservative woman.
Democrats have not yet reached a final decision on whether to do so, however, said David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Liberals have attacked Kuhl because of a 1986 amicus brief that she co-authored on behalf of the Reagan Administration. The brief, filed in the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court case of Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, urged overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion on demand in all 50 states.
That this brief should form the basis of the Democratic opposition to Kuhl is telling, because last November Senate Democrats allowed, by unanimous consent, the confirmation of John M. Rogers to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. With Kuhl, Rogers co-authored the Thornburgh brief. He is a white male.
When asked why the Democrats would allow the confirmation of Rogers but not Kuhl, Leahys spokesman, Carle, said he would try to call back with an explanation. He had not done so as of press time.
CFJ Chairman Boyden Gray noted in a written statement that Rogers was not even asked about the Thornburgh brief during his confirmation hearing last June. The Judiciary Committee approved Rogers in July on a voice vote.
CFJ spokesman Sean Rushton, pointing to the filibusters against Estrada and Owen-both of whom are rated “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association-told Human Events that Democrats fear confirming qualified conservative nominees who are not stereotypical middle-aged white males. Democrats will have a harder time politically trying to stop a female, non-whitenominee if Bush later tries to elevate one to the Supreme Court, he said.
“They dont want to see a conservative woman judge who may, for example, oppose Roe v. Wade,” he said. “That doesnt fit the script for them.”
On May 9, the Judiciary Committee recommended Kuhls confirmation in a 10-to-9 party-line vote.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), a committee member who represents Kuhls home state, praised the nominee at her April 1 confirmation hearing. “I have never had so many letters from judges in support of a [judicial] candidate,” she said. “These letters are clearly not pro forma. She is obviously an extraordinarily bright woman.” However, Feinstein was ultimately convinced by Democrats to vote against recommending confirmation.
Californias other senator, Barbara Boxer (D.), has opposed Kuhl all along, denouncing her as “anti-choice.
“Carolyn Kuhl has a long and troubling record as a right-wing ideologue and as a judge whose record demonstrates indifference to the rights of individuals,” wrote Ralph Neas, president of the leftist group People for the American Way. “She does not deserve a powerful lifetime seat on the federal appeals court.”
Neas is a key player in the Democrats plan to filibuster Bush appellate court nominees, and his far-left group has released highly critical and hyperbolic reports on several, calling them “extremists.”
Bushs appointment of Kuhl is meant to balance out the radical San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, whose judges recently ruled that God must be struck from the Pledge of Allegiance and that the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights does not contain an individual right to keep and bear arms. Both of these decisions are being appealed.