Priscilla Owen: The Wrong Judge

Cheers for the New York Times and their sharp editorial urging the Senate to reject the nomination of ultra-conservative Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to sit on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Times points out that at one time even President Bush's own White House Counsel, Alberto Gonzales, charged Owens (in a dissenting opinion) with engaging in "unconscionable . . . judicial activism."

For those not familiar with Judge Owen or the ongoing criticism of her, she gives new meaning to the word "conservative." She is perhaps best known for her staunch opposition to abortion.

Now while everyone is entitled to his or her own personal views, Owen "has been at times so eager to issue conservative rulings in cases before her on the Texas Supreme Court that she has ignored statutory language and substituted her own views." Hence the label, "unconscionable judicial activist."

Judges are allowed to have personal views on issues. They are not supposed to allow those views to dictate their judicial decisions.

"A former lawyer for the oil and gas industry, she reflexively favors manufacturers over consumers, employers over workers and insurers over sick people. In abortion cases Justice Owen has been resourceful about finding reasons that, despite United States Supreme Court holdings and Texas case law, women should be denied the right to choose."

The Times also finds Owen lacking in the ethics department:

"Justice Owen has also shown a disturbing lack of sensitivity to judicial ethics. She has raised large amounts of campaign contributions from corporations and law firms, and then declined to recuse herself when those contributors have had cases before her. And as a judicial candidate, she publicly endorsed a pro-business political action committee that was raising money to influence the rulings of the Texas Supreme Court."

It's not just the New York Times that has publicly called for Owen's rejection. An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle called upon California Senator Diane Feinstein to vote against her confirmation . "The point is, Owen has created a strong record of "rewriting" the law when it does not match her conservative convictions. This is why it is vital that Feinstein reject this nomination."

The organization People for the American Way has published a report criticizing Owen's nomination. The report focuses on her dissenting opinions while a Texas Supreme Court Justice in the specific areas of "discrimination and employee rights; reproductive rights; environmental issues and public information rights; and consumer and citizen rights."

The report finds that "many of Owen's dissents reveal a judicial philosophy directly contrary to President Bush's asserted goal of nominating judges who will interpret the law, not make it. As explained by the Texas Supreme Court majority, a number of the dissents she has written or joined would have effectively rewritten or disregarded the law, usually to the detriment of ordinary citizens."

We agree that Justice Owen should be rejected as a Judge on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals because she is a "judicial nominee who would make the law, not interpret it."

The Fifth Circuit decides appeals from the U.S. District Courts in Texas, Lousiana and Mississippi.

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