Senate committee rejects Owen for appeals court

ABy Kris Banks
Daily Texan
University of Texas at Austin

aUSTIN, Texas (U-WIRE) – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee shot down Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen’s nomination to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Thursday.

The committee voted along party lines, with 10 Democrats voting against Bush’s nominee and nine Republicans voting for it.

President Bush called the committee’s decision “shameful.”

“Today’s action by this small group of Democrat senators is wrong,” Bush said in a statement. “It has harmed a good person, harmed our courts and harmed the American people.”

Owen’s supporters frequently pointed to her recognition by the American Bar Association as “well qualified for the position.”

Opposition to Owen’s appointment said she was too much of a judicial activist, acting more on her personal opinions than basing them on the U.S. Constitution.

Texas organizations that opposed the Owen nomination met at the state Capitol to celebrate the committee’s rejection shortly after the results were announced.

“We would like to commend the U.S. Senate for taking a stand in rejecting Priscilla Owen,” said Sarah Wheat, political director for the Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. The group was one of 14 organizations that were part of the Texas Ad Hoc Coalition on Judicial Nominees, which joined to fight the Owen nomination.

The group was concerned about Owen because of her record in the Texas Supreme Court, where she supported parental notification laws when minors seek abortions, said Kae McLaughlin, the group’s director.

“In Jane Doe cases throughout 2000 and 2001, Owen consistently placed herself outside of the Texas Supreme Court’s conservative mainstream to rule against women in every case, regardless of the evidence presented,” she said.

Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, rejected the committee’s decision as partisan politics and called it a “major victory for women, workers, minorities and consumers.”

“The committee has affirmed scores of Republicans,” he said. “Bush must nominate nominees within the judicial mainstream.”

Dave Beckwith, spokesman for Republican U.S. Senate candidate John Cornyn, said the rejection was partisan and Democratic Senate candidate Ron Kirk was responsible for it. Kirk opposed Owen’s nomination.

“The Democrats would have went along with Kirk,” he said. “They’re more interested in keeping their majority in the Senate than rejecting a judicial nominee.”

Beckwith said Kirk was more interested in maintaining support among “liberal special interest groups” than showing bipartisan support.

Kirk spokesman Justin Lonon said the Democrats on the committee made the decision on their own.

“Contrary to what Mr. Cornyn might think, the Democratic leadership of the United States Senate does not take their direction from Ron Kirk, nor does he take his from them,” he said.

Kirk supports “moderate, common sense jurists that have bipartisan support,” Lonon said.