The Power of the Fourth Circuit

Don't miss The Power of the Fourth in Sunday's New York Times Magazine about how one court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, is moving the country rightward. Two of its judges, J. Harvie Wilkerson, III and J. Michael Luttig, are both mentioned frequently as possible nominees for the Supreme Court.

Bush's most recent appointee to the Fourth Circuit is Dennis Shed, a former chief of staff to Strom Thurmond. His pending nominee is Terrence Boyle, a former Helms aide unsuccessfully nominated by George Bush, Sr. more than 10 years ago.

Although the Fourth Circuit has the largest African-American population of any appellate jurisdiction in the country, the court did not become ethnically or racially integrated until 2001, and was the last circuit to do so.

This is a long article, but well worth reading because it shows the jeopardy befalling our judiciary on a national scale. The independence of the judicial branch in America is under attack as never before.
Legal scholars talk about the pendulum swinging from liberal to conservative, from a preoccupation with individuals' rights to a preoccupation with states' rights, and suggest that, in time, it will swing back once more. It would certainly help many Americans sustain their faith in the system if the courts could find their equilibrium, if they could become less ideological, less predictable and less political. That doesn't appear to be on the horizon, though, not in the foreseeable future. In the historic site in Richmond where the Confederacy once thrived, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is ushering in the 21st century.
Remember that federal judges serve for life. Every right-wing judge that Bush appoints is likely to stay on the bench for 20 to 30 years. What will happen to our consitutional liberties? Will they be there for your children? If you're concerned about this, bookmark People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union. Read their reports on the nominees and write or fax (rather than e-mail) your Senators when hearings come up. Let them know you oppose any Bush nominees you find to be extremist and likely to be a judicial activist. And vote Bush out of office in 2004--no matter which Democrat runs against him. Please help preserve the independence and integrity of the judiciary for our children.

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