Liberals Intensify Attacks on DC Circuit Court Nominee

By Robert B. Bluey | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - With a Senate confirmation hearing slated for Wednesday, liberal interest groups heightened their criticism of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who President Bush has nominated for a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Calling Brown an opponent of abortion and affirmation action, liberal organizations ranging from People For the American Way to the National Women's Law Center are hoping to derail her nomination.

For several weeks, interest groups have warned senators about the implications of confirming Brown, a 54-year-old black woman who received a "qualified" rating from the American Bar Association. At issue is her ruling to uphold California's Proposition 209, which banned affirmation action, and her support of a state statute requiring parental consent for abortions.

"[Brown] does not belong on the federal bench, especially the D.C. Circuit, where she could do serious damage to the fundamental legal rights that protect the lives and well-being of women and girls all over the nation," said Marcia D. Greenberger, president of the women's law center.

This week, the law center released an analysis of Brown's tenure on the California Supreme Court. People For the American Way teamed with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to issue a similar report in August.

The Congressional Black Caucus weighed in against the nomination last week. Its chairman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), called Brown "a jurist on a right-wing mission" in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Justice Brown is a notoriously conservative lawyer and jurist, but her conservatism alone would not inspire this letter," Cummings wrote. "We write you because Justice Brown's record raises serious questions about her ability to divorce her ideological views from her responsibility to render decisions based on a fair and precedent-based interpretation of the law and the Constitution."

Conservatives are not standing by silently. The Committee for Justice released a 22-page report Tuesday defending Brown's record. The black leadership network Project 21 has also rallied to her defense.

Brown has remained silent since her nomination, but she can expect an onslaught of questions from liberal senators at Wednesday's hearing, said John A. Nowacki, director of legal policy at the Free Congress Foundation. He said she would likely have to spend most of the time clarifying misinformation spread by interest groups.

"Unfortunately, some of the senators who follow the marching orders of People For the American Way have shown in the past that the truth about a nominee's record matters very little," Nowacki said. "All that they care about is opposing nominees who don't meet their political litmus test."

The two opinions that have caused alarm aren't outside the mainstream, Nowacki said. Brown had the backing of the entire California Supreme Court in the Proposition 209 case, and even though she voted to uphold the state's parental consent law, the court's most liberal member joined her in the 4-3 decision.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) hopes to debunk the criticism of Brown. He dismissed the attacks as nothing more than "fundraising tools" by liberal interest groups.

"Their claims serve only to make clear that they have not read the cases they cite as arguments against this fine justice, nor have they heard from the people of California, who she has served so ably for many years," Cornyn said in a statement.

Brown is the latest nominee to encounter resistance from liberals. Last month, former Justice Department attorney Miguel Estrada, who is Hispanic, withdrew his nomination for a post on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Democrats continue to block two nominees - Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor - and have threatened to challenge the nominations of California Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl and U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering Sr. of Mississippi.

If Brown makes it out of the Judiciary Committee, which is expected, she could also endure a fight before the full Senate. Like some of the other nominees, she has enough votes to be confirmed but lacks the 60 votes needed to cut off debate. Democrats have successfully been able to employ the tactic with the nominations of Estrada, Owen and Pryor.

Project 21 Director David Almasi singled out liberal senators as the culprits holding up qualified nominees. He said some senators are targeting Brown because she is a black woman with conservative views.

"They don't want to have to push one of these people forward," Almasi said. "Not only does it get another conservative jurist on the court, which they do not want, but it also breaks the image that only through liberal programs can African-Americans or women or Hispanics get ahead in the world."

See Related Story:
Republicans Keep Options Open in Fight Over Judicial Nominees
(Sept. 10, 2003)

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