Yesterday in this space I noted that the liberal editorial boards of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and several other newspapers were shown to be quite wrong about Alabama Atty. Gen. Bill Pryor. Pryor, who has been nominated by President Bush to fill a vacancy on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, received unending criticism from the press about his strong political views and their belief that he would prove unable or unwilling to separate his personal views from his judicial duties.
However, in the confrontation over the Ten Commandments in Alabama’s state judicial building, Pryor’s actions show him to be a man of integrity who will enforce the law and the orders of the court, even when they run counter to his personal beliefs. Atty. Gen. Pryor not only enforced the federal court’s ruling to remove the monument but also is overseeing the ethics charge against Alabama judge Roy Moore, the jurist responsible for the monument’s placement in the state building.
Not only have Pryor’s actions proven the press’ accusations wrong, they have also shown that one of the major arguments of Senate Democrats against Pryor’s nomination rings hollow.
Consider the following from a few Democrats:
Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.), Congressional Record, S10250, July 30, 2003:
- “He has been a staunch supporter of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his midnight installation of a 6,000-pound granite Ten Commandments monument in the middle of the State courthouse. The Eleventh Circuit Court recently ruled that the display was patently unconstitutional and had to be removed.
. . . . I think if you are going to serve this Nation and you are going to serve this Constitution, you have to have some sensitivity to the diversity of religious belief in this country. To argue that this is a Christian nation–it may have been in its origin but today it is a nation of great diversity. That diversity is protected by this Constitution. Obviously, Mr. Pryor has some problems in grasping that concept.”
Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.), Congressional Record, S10220, July 30, 2003:
- “More than just disagreeing with much of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence over the last 50 years on issues such as privacy, the death penalty, criminal justice, and the separation of church and state, Mr. Pryor has dedicated his advocacy and litigation to rolling back widely accepted legal principles and laws. What we know about Mr. Pryor leaves little doubt that he will try to advance that agenda if he’s confirmed as a Federal judge.
“. . . What are we expected to believe? That despite the intensity with which he holds these views and the years he has devoted to dismantling these legal rights, he will still ‘follow the law’ if he is confirmed to the Eleventh Circuit? Repeating that mantra again and again in the face of his extreme record does not make it credible that he will do so.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Executive Business Meeting, July 23, 2003:
- “On all of these issues, the environment, voting rights, women’s rights, gay rights, federalism, and more, Bill Pryor’s record of activism and advocacy is clear. That is his right as an American citizen, but it does not make him fit to be a judge or likely to be fair on such issues. I think the length and level of his devotion to these issues creates a situation in which his impartiality on such issues would reasonably be questioned by litigants in his court. Bill Pryor should not be confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Congressional Record, S10232, July 30, 2003:
- “. . . [T]his truly is not about religion. This is about confirming judges who can be impartial and fair in the administration of justice. I think when a nominee such as William Pryor makes inflammatory statements and evidences such strongly held beliefs on a whole variety of core issues, it is hard for many of us to accept that he can set aside those beliefs and act as an impartial judge. . . .”
Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.), Congressional Record, S10591, July 31, 2003:
- “But the importance of the Federal judiciary is too important to stand silently by and allow a nominee who has expressed hostility to the laws that protect the rights of all Americans. Mr. Pryor has repeatedly put his own personal and political beliefs above the dictates of the law. Throughout his career, he has been unable to find constitutional protection for even those rights that are clearly written and firmly established in case law.”
Sen. Herb Kohl (Wis.), Congressional Record, S10593, July 31, 2003:
- “An appeals court judge’s solemn duty and paramount obligation is to do justice fairly, impartially, and without favor. An appeals court judge must be open minded, must be willing to set his or her personal preferences aside, and must be able to judge without predisposition. And, of course, he or she must follow controlling precedent faithfully, and be able to disregard completely any views he or she holds to the contrary.
“In the case of Attorney General Pryor, we are presented with a nominee whose views are so extreme that he fails this basic test. In case after case, and on issue after issue, Attorney General Pryor has a public record of taking the most extreme position, often at odds with controlling Supreme Court precedent, and in the most hard-line and inflexible manner.
“Pryor’s views are outside of the mainstream on issues affecting civil rights, women’s rights, disability rights, religious freedom, and the right to privacy. He assures us that despite these views, he will follow settled law and Supreme Court precedent. After making extreme statements to the committee and in his hearing and refusing to disavow other zealous positions that he has taken throughout his career, he wants us to believe that he will blindly follow the law as a judge.
“. . . [T]he crucial issue is whether Attorney General Pryor can put his personal views aside and apply the law of the land as decided by the Supreme Court. It is my conclusion that he cannot. . . .
“. . . Of course, Attorney General Pryor has every right to hold his views, whether we agree with him or not. . . . But he has no right to be a Federal appeals court judge. Only those who we are convinced are impartial, unbiased, fair, and whose only guiding ideology is to follow the Constitution to apply equal justice to all are fit for this position. Unfortunately, we can have no confidence that he will set these views aside and faithfully follow the Constitution and binding precedent.”
Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), Congressional Record, S10592-10593, July 31, 2003:
- “. . .I oppose the nomination of William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. Pryor holds extreme views on a range of issues, has engaged in inflammatory rhetoric when expressing those views, and has exhibited a questionable commitment to separating politics from the law. . . .
“Our country is built upon tolerance for a diversity of faiths yet Mr. Pryor has also shown little respect for the important constitutional principle of separation of church and state. . . .
“There are just too many indications that Mr. Pryor would be unable to separate his politics from the law.”
Any chance they’ll take back their comments or at least stop using this argument as an excuse to avoid their constitutional duty to vote on Mr. Pryor’s nomination?