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Senate confirms appeals court nominee Brown, 56-43; filibuster against Pryor ends

WASHINGTON (BP)–Appeals court nominee Janice Rogers Brown was confirmed by the Senate on a 56-43 vote June 8, placing one of President Bush’s most conservative and embattled judicial nominees on the federal bench.

Brown, currently a California Supreme Court justice, will serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a court which has special jurisdiction over government-related litigation.

Her confirmation came more than a year and a half after she was nominated by President Bush in November 2003. Senate Democrats successfully filibustered her and nine other appeals court nominees.

But in May a group of 14 senators from both parties reached a compromise that allowed Brown and others to receive an up-or-down vote. Two nominees not part of the deal likely still will be filibustered.

“Justice Brown is a highly qualified nominee,” Majority Leader Bill Frist, R.-Tenn., said on the Senate floor. “She’s kind, she’s smart, she’s thoughtful. She’s endured a detracted and often bitter nominations process with grace and dignity. … It’s been a long road to get to this point.”

The Senate voted 65-32 June 7 to stop the filibuster on Brown. At least 60 votes were needed. On May 25 another one of Bush’s filibustered nominees, Priscilla Owen, was confirmed. An up-or-down vote on appeals court nominee William Pryor will take place June 9. Minutes after the Senate confirmed Brown, it voted 67-32 to end the filibuster on Pryor.

“Despite more than four years of heated rhetoric and mischaracterizations of their records, up-or-down votes on Justices Owen and Brown did not result in the sky falling, or the end of the minority party’s free speech rights,” Sen. John Cornyn, R.-Texas, said in a statement. “The same will be true when we vote on the president’s other well-qualified nominees to the federal bench — and we will.”

Christian conservative groups support Brown and the other nominees in the hope they will reverse a host of socially liberal rulings from the past several decades.

Liberal interest groups, including abortion rights and homosexual activist organizations, led the opposition to Brown, saying she was out of the judicial mainstream and had made extreme statements opposing government programs and regulation.

“Whether one is from the left or the right, Mr. President, this nominee should be rejected,” Minority Leader Harry Reid, D.-Nev., said on the floor. “We should reject all nominees who twist the law to advance their own ideological bent. … We should reject nominees who hold deep hostility to government — such deep hostility that renders them blind to what the law mandates.”

But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R.-Utah, said liberal judges were the ones who should be labeled activist.

“The American people know judicial activism when they see it,” Hatch said on the floor. “Just in the last few years we’ve been told by judges that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional [and] that our Bill of Rights should be interpreted in light of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights.”

Hatch also pointed to federal rulings striking down partial-birth abortion bans and overturning Nebraska’s marriage amendment.

“The definition of a judicial activist is someone who puts his or her own personal views ahead of what the law really is,” Hatch said. “Some of the leadings groups opposed to Janice Brown oppose her precisely because she will faithfully interpret the law rather than remaking it according to her own theory of justice.”

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