Friday, March 11, 2005

Court Nominees No Better The Second Time

We've seen the terrible appointees to the Cabinet from George Bush, and the choice of an opponent of the UN as ambassador. Battles over court appointees remain ahead. The New York Times has provided some examples of the types of nominees Bush plans to send back who were previously rejected by the Senate:

William Myers III, one of the seven filibustered nominees, has built a career as an anti-environmental extremist. He was a longtime lobbyist for the mining and cattle industries. Then, as the Interior Department's top lawyer, he put those industries' interests ahead of the public interest. In one controversial legal opinion, he overturned a decision that would have protected American Indian sacred sites, clearing the way for a company to do extensive mining in the area. Mr. Myers has been nominated to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco. That court plays a major role in determining the environmental law that applies to the Western states.

Terrence Boyle, who has been nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, is also a troubling choice. He has an extraordinarily high reversal rate for a district court judge. Many of the decisions that have been criticized by higher courts wrongly rejected claims involving civil rights, sex discrimination and disability rights. Mr. Boyle's record is particularly troubling because the court reversing him, the Fourth Circuit, is perhaps the most hostile to civil rights in the federal appellate system, and even it has regularly found his rulings objectionable.

Thomas Griffith, who has been nominated to the powerful Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has the unfortunate distinction of having practiced law in two jurisdictions without the required licenses. While practicing law in Washington, D.C., he failed to renew his license for three years. Mr. Griffith blamed his law firm's staff for that omission, but the responsibility was his. When he later practiced law in Utah as general counsel at Brigham Young University, he never bothered to get a Utah license.

Mr. Myers, Mr. Boyle, and Mr. Griffith were chosen for their archconservative political views, not their qualifications for the bench. No impartial person interested in choosing only the best possible judges would have put them at the top of the list. The federal judiciary is one of the cornerstones of American government - one of the three branches the nation's founders created, and set against one another, to guide the nation and keep it free. Surely this vital institution deserves better.


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