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The US Judicial System: Judge Priscilla Owen



Hank Greely comments: "I did not follow the Owen nomination closely and, as a result, I don't have a view on the merits of this particular nomination. I believe it is true that she is the first nominee to be rejected by the Committee after receiving the ABA's highest ranking, though this has two downsides for the Administration. First, the Republican Senate Judiciary Committee under President Clinton refused even to bring to a vote ten equally highly ranked nominees. Second, the Administration, which is now trumpeting her ABA approval, earlier de-emphasized the ABA rankings.

Federal court nominations have long been political. A well qualified Judge Parker was rejected for a Supreme Court seat during the Hoover Administration on political grounds, as was Clement Haynsworth during the Nixon Administration. (Carswell, who was also rejected by the Senate during the Nixon Administration, was emphatically not well-qualified). And, of course, the rejection of Robert Bork about 15 years ago was also based largely on politics.

But the nomination fighting has been particularly ugly for the last four or five years and has extended beyond the Supreme Court to the Courts of Appeal and even the district courts. I think part of it is the legacy of the Bork confirmation and part of it is the thorough and tight division of power. Each President has faced a Senate of the other party for almost all of the past decade. In addition, control of the House, the Senate, and the Presidency in 2004 all hang, or seem to hang, by a thread, increasing the desire to play winning politics. Personally, my guess about the biggest change, though, is the spread of more and more interest groups, commercial and ideological, who care deeply about the federal courts, from the trial level, through the appellate level, to the Supreme Court. These issues now count because groups that inundate the parties with mail, e mail, money, volunteer workers, or all of the above, are following them closely . . . at a time when passing up any possible political advantage, however slight, could change the control of the House, the Senate, the White House, and ultimately the Supreme Court.

The Republicans played judicial games at the end of the Clinton Administration (more stalling than voting people down); the Democrats have played judicial games at the start of the Little Bush Administration, both stalling and voting people down. As long as the Senate and the Presidency are controlled by different parties, I don't see an end to it soon"

My comment: The tight division of power" - That is the theory, but the point is that, being politicized, the judiciary does nor have equal powwer.

Ronald Hilton - 9/6/02


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