Judiciary Committee rejects Bush appointee

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(Host) The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to reject one of President Bush’s appointees to the federal appeals court. Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the panel, says the controversial judge was an ideological activist who was unqualified for the position.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) On a strict party line vote, the Democratic majority on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has rejected the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscella Owen for a seat on the federal appeals court.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the committee, says the panel’s 10 to 9 vote against President Bush’s nominee reflects the belief that Justice Owen had imposed her anti-abortion and pro-business views on some of her judicial rulings:

(Leahy) “Justice Owen comes across as a very activist ideologue who tried to shape the law to fit what she thinks the law should be, not what the law really is. Here is somebody who definitely was an activist. I told the White House, I thought there’d be a problem with her both because of that and her ties to Enron. They insisted on going forward. I think the Senate Committee did the right thing in rejecting her.”

(Kinzel) Leahy insists that he’s not against conservative judicial nominations. Leahy points to the fact that the committee on Thursday gave its unanimous approval to New York Judge Reena Reggi to the federal appeals court. Judge Reggi was first appointed to the federal bench by former President Ronald Reagan. Leahy says the issue is whether or not the judicial nominees are qualified:

(Leahy) “I have no problem with conservative Republicans, but I do have a problem if they are going to be ideologues. Because the courts are supposed to be there for everybody not just for Republicans or not just for Democrats. It’s supposed to be there for everybody and if somebody approaches their position as a judge feeling they’re going to be an advocate for one political party or the other, then that’s wrong. I would vote against a person nominated by a Democrat if they were going to be doing that.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says his committee has given its approval to 80 of President Bush judicial nominees and that Thursday’s vote marks only the second time that the panel has rejected one of the president’s appointments. However critics of the committee are concerned that at least 40 of the President’s nominees have yet to have a hearing in from the panel.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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