On the Trumpet-Call That Is Justice Owen's Ordeal

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Aug 01, 2002 12:00 AM
They're doing the unconscionable to Priscilla Owen, but it's merely a trumpet-call for battles to come. Of all the things about George Bush that upset the left, Bush's conservatism upsets them most. And what upsets the left most about Bush's conservatism is his determination to put conservatives on the federal courts. The son of the father who gave us Clarence Thomas (and dismal David Souter) for the Supreme Court, is determined to fill every vacancy across the federal bench with those of Thomas' judicial thinking. It's infusing the left with the screaming meemies. Given that there have been no Supreme Court vacancies during this President Bush's term; consider please the appellate courts. Of the 32 Circuit Court nominees sent up by the president, the Senate Judiciary Committee - headed by Vermont's Patrick Leahy, the worst senator - has deigned to grant hearings to only 17. Worse, of the 11 initial nominees sent up in May of last year, the committee has held hearings on only five; the full Senate has confirmed only three. Over the years, nominees to the federal bench have been blasted, even rejected, for their point of view. Yet rarely has it been the policy of the party controlling the Senate confirmation process to oppose just about all nominees flat-out on political and ideological grounds. Yes, the lefties opposed Robert Bork. Yes, they "borked" Clarence Thomas. And much earlier they stopped the distinguished Clement Haynesworth and delivered major hits on William Rehnquist, who now sits as the nation's chief justice. But these days the extreme left has gone over the edge. Its mouthpieces killed a nominee for the 5th Circuit on hokeyed-up civil rights grounds. They oppose a nominee for the 3rd Circuit because he was a member of an all-male fishing club. They oppose a nominee for the 4th Circuit because he worked as an aide to Strom Thurmond. And so it is Justice Owen's turn: They've been ripping this nominee for the 5th Circuit because - please, sit down - her opinions for the Texas Supreme Court suggest she is pro-business and in favor of parental notification. (begin ital) Really.
Pro-abortion extremists hate Justice Owen because she has had the audacity to uphold a Texas law requiring family conversation between parents and their minor daughter contemplating an abortion, as favored by two-thirds of the nation's adult population. And oh dread, dread, in this anti-business hour she supports the business sector. (How much better has been the leftist reception of Rowan Williams, a self-styled "peacenik" just designated the next archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican - in the United States, Episcopal - Communion. Inter alia, he supports ordaining homosexuals (and never mind the problems in the Catholic Church caused largely by homosexuals in the priesthood), terms American operations in Afghanistan "morally tainted," preaches understanding of the motivations of terrorists, says an American enterprise to remove Saddam would be "immoral and illegal," and - as a rank anti-capitalist - detests the Western corporate culture, singling out Disney for its exploitation of children. The left finds him just peachy. Let us all sing "Kumbaya.") No I'm OK, you're OK regarding Justice Owen. In malign contrast, because she backs not only parental notification but also capitalism, lefties in the lobbies and in the U.S. Senate find her disqualified for a seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. This stuff has got to stop, but it likely will not stop until the Republicans take control of the Senate. In a country still closely divided on liberal-conservative ideological grounds, the courts are a last redoubt - the battle for them bitter and desperately fought. And imagine the coming combat over Supreme Court vacancies. Priscilla Owen waited 14 months for a hearing. Senator Leahy has explained the slow pace of hearings and committee votes as a consequence of the terror-filled "tumultuous year for the nation and also for the Senate." Yet he goes on unctuously - with his minions doing the dirty work - mugging, mauling and intimidating good judicial nominees (including women and minorities) for their allegiance to a point of view, an ideology, contrary to his own. Perhaps some surprising sectors are beginning to relent. In an editorial last week The Washington Post called upon the liberal opposition to hike the pace of hearings and confirmation so the appellate courts, at least, can ease their backlogs and begin to function efficiently. It wrote: "Justice Owen is indisputably well qualified. ... So rather than attacking her qualifications, opponents have sought to portray her as a conservative judicial activist. ... While some of Justice Owen's opinions - particularly on matters related to abortion - seem rather aggressive, none seems to us beyond the range of reasonable judicial disagreement. ... Liberals will no doubt disagree with some opinions she would write on the 5th Circuit, but this is not the standard by which a president's lower-court nominees should be judged. ... In Justice Owen's case, the long wait has produced no great surprise. She is still a conservative. And that is still not a good reason to vote her down." Oyez!