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Feminist News


Bush Stacking Federal Courts

WASHINGTON, DC The Feminist Majority stands together with a broad coalition of womens rights, civil rights, disability rights, labor and environmental groups today to urge the Senate to block President Bush from stacking the courts with right-wing judges.

"The Senate must stop Bushs court stacking if we are to save 40 years of womens rights and civil rights progress," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. "At stake is not only Roe v. Wade but also decisions that help protect women from sexual harassment and that increased employment and educational opportunities for women"

Since his election, President Bush has appointed 19 candidates to the federal circuit court of appeals and 19 are pending for the 24 remaining vacancies. Time after time, womens and civil rights groups have had to oppose these vacancies because they would reverse progress for women, African-Americans, Latinos, disabled, gays and lesbians as well as prevent environmental protection.

While the federal circuit of appellate courts tends to fall beneath the publics radar, oftentimes these courts are the "court of last resort." On average, the nations 13 circuit courts rule on 28,000 cases a year - compared to the U.S. Supreme Courts average of 75 cases. Rights such as equal opportunity in education and employment, protection from sexual harassment, freedom from discrimination and reproductive choice can be significantly rolled back at the circuit-court level.

"Senate Republicans have coined this week 'Judges Week' in open declaration of their determination to ram through such far-right nominees as Jeffrey Sutton and Priscilla Owen. The Senate Democrats must stand up and fight as they have been doing with Miguel Estrada," Smeal said. "At this time of global turmoil, we dont need extremists in the courts willing to make a Dred Scott decision in the area of womens fundamental rights."

Jeffrey Sutton, a leading activist in the so-called "states rights" movement, has spent his legal career undermining the rights of women, minorities and the disabled. He has personally argued several key Supreme Court cases that have severely limited Congress ability to prevent discrimination based on race, age, disability and religion. As an officer for the Separation of Powers practice group for the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, Sutton has made no secret about his intentions to roll back the clock.

Priscilla Owen, currently a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, has been nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for the second time. Last year, she was rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee for her consistently anti-womens rights, anti-workers rights rulings. In every abortion-related opinion on the Texas Supreme Court, Owen has voted against abortion rights.

"Still others such as Carolyn Kuhl who has advocated for the overturn of Roe v. Wade and Charles Pickering who as a state senator supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion wait in the wings," Smeal said. "For once, the Senate must make the rights and lives of women paramount."

Media Resources: Feminist Majority