When California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown faced a retention vote in 1998, 76 percent of Californians voted to keep her on their state's highest court. In San Francisco, perhaps America's most liberal city, she won 79.4 percent.
Brown won more votes statewide than any of the other three justices up for retention that year -- even though she had cast a (dissenting) vote in favor of upholding the state's parental-consent law.
But when President Bush nominated Brown to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 2003, her demonstrated support in places like San Francisco did not matter to Senate Democrats.
At the beginning of her confirmation hearing, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois lectured Brown about her worldview. "Let me talk to you for a minute about the world according to you as you see it," said Durbin. "It is a world, in my opinion, that is outside the mainstream of America."
What Durbin really meant is that Brown is the Senate Democrats' worst nightmare. Born the daughter of African American sharecroppers in 1949 in Greenville, Ala., Brown rose from a childhood in the segregated South to win a law degree from UCLA, before starting a stellar career of public service in California.
She is an unapologetic champion of limited government, who eruditely traces her political philosophy back to the Founding Fathers.
Brilliant, pungently plainspoken, unmistakably dedicated to preserving the Constitution as ratified and manifestly fearless, she is a formidable potential Bush nominee for a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy -- who cannot be counted on by Democrats to vote pro-abortion.
She is no David Souter and never will be. That is why Senate Democrats fear and oppose her.
At her confirmation hearing, it was Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont who tipped their hand. "But do you find a right to privacy in the Constitution?" he asked Brown.
"Do I find it in the text of the Constitution, the U.S. Constitution?" said Brown. "No."
A few pregnant minutes later, then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah coaxed Brown to expand on this. "Just one question to clarify," said Hatch. "You said that you did not find the right to privacy in the express language of the Constitution."
"That is correct," said Brown.
"Nobody can find it there," said Hatch.
"Nobody can find it there," affirmed Brown.
"But," said Hatch, "do you agree there is a right to privacy that has now been established by the Supreme Court in Griswold and --"
"It is clearly established by the Supreme Court," said Brown. "That is the law."