Pryor Won't Face Senate Judiciary Inquiry

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) plans to usher judicial nominee William H. Pryor, Jr. through his committee without a new hearing, a committee aide told HUMAN EVENTS Monday. Senate Democrats blocked Pryor in two filibusters in July and November 2003.

In an effort to circumvent the Democrats’ opposition, President Bush gave Pryor a recess appointment to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 20, 2004. The appointment expires at the end of 2005 when Congress adjourns. Since taking his seat on the 11th Circuit, Pryor has authored “progressive” and “moderate” opinions, Specter said at a February 24 press conference.

“The senator signaled today he does not intend to hold a rehearing on Pryor now,” a Judiciary aide told HUMAN EVENTS. “That was someone he had mentioned in the past he might consider holding a hearing on. He has since made the determination that Pryor has been heard and will not need a rehearing.”

Pryor is one of 20 appeals court nominees Bush resubmitted to the Senate for consideration after they failed to win confirmation in the 108th Congress. He is one of seven nominees Democrats chose to block using the filibuster–a technique that requires 60 votes to overcome. Pryor received 53 votes in July 2003 and 51 in November 2003.

Senate Democrats favor rehearings on all nominees, although Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) has said that unless new evidence exists that nominees have changed their views, Democrats would continue to block their confirmations.

Specter has suggested that Pryor could win some Democrat converts based on his record as an appeals court judge. “I’ve circulated among my colleagues, especially the Democrats, five opinions which he has written, which are progressive, moderate and I think show the kinds of judicial demeanor which may be appealing to the Democrats,” Specter said on February 24. “Whether that will make a difference or not, I don’t know.”

As Alabama’s attorney general, a position he held before his recess appointment, Pryor angered Christian conservatives when he ordered then-Chief Justice Roy Moore of the state Supreme Court to remove the 2.5-ton Ten Commandments monument he installed in the state courthouse. Even through Pryor said he believed the Ten Commandments were the foundation of Alabama law, he refused to disobey a federal court order to remove the monument.

Specter has yet to schedule a vote on Pryor, and one would almost certainly not take place until April at the earliest, following the two-week congressional recess.