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Senate confirms controversial Justice Department nominees

WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate confirmed two of President Obama’s controversial nominees for the Justice Department Thursday — one who had in the past represented pornography clients and the other who had represented the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman at the heart of a lengthy legal battle in Florida.

The Senate confirmed David Ogden by a 65-28 vote for deputy attorney general, the No. 2 spot in the Justice Department. Ogden’s ties to porn clients had drawn criticism from social conservatives.

The Senate also confirmed Thomas Perrelli for associate attorney general, the No. 3 position in the department, on a 72-20 vote. Perrelli was part of the legal team that successfully represented Schiavo’s husband in his successful attempt to have his brain-damaged wife taken off a feeding tube to hasten her death. The case drew national attention.

Senators’ votes on both nominees can be found here (Ogden) and here (Perrelli) .

Social conservatives had mounted opposition to both nominees, particularly Ogden. The Senate Judiciary Committee confirmed him along a 14-5 vote in late February but only after several senators expressed concern about his past representation of several clients. Among them, Ogden:

— filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the ACLU and two other groups in the early 1990s arguing that a child pornographer had been improperly prosecuted.

— submitted a friend-of-the-court brief earlier this decade for more than a dozen library directors, urging the overturning of a law that required porn-blocking Internet filters be placed on public library computers if the libraries receive federal funds.

— represented Playboy in a mid-1980s case when it was seeking to have the Library of Congress — which had stopped such practices — translate the magazine into Braille. He also represented Playboy several years later in a lawsuit targeting Puerto Rico’s decision to remove obscene material from cable television.

— represented PHE, Inc., one of the nation’s largest distributors of hard-core pornography, in an early 1990s case.

Colin Hardacre, a Los Angeles attorney who represents porn businesses, told a porn industry news website that Ogden’s nomination “is a good sign for the adult industry.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, had opposed Ogden’s nomination, saying, “A person’s views on pornography are a window to a person’s worldview, and this window shows a worldview that is inconsistent with what I want the American Justice Department to be.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., said opposition to Ogden was initiated by “the extreme right.”

“These attacks from extremists distort the record of this excellent lawyer, this good man,” said Leahy, adding that Ogden had a record of opposing child porn. Ogden served in the Clinton Justice Department.

Perrelli’s nomination drew critical comments from Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., who urged senators to oppose the nomination.

“Mr. Perrelli was the pro-bono [attorney] representing for free Michael Schiavo in this case,” Brownback said of the case that culminated with Terri Schiavo’s death in 2005. “… I think before we put a person that took that position … into the No. 3 position as the associate attorney general of the United States, we should discuss that, because … what they view and what they stand for does find its way into policy apparatus for the United States of America.”

Brownback said the Schiavo case involved a “fundamental question” involving human life.

“Clearly, we should err on the side of saying if this is a human person, then they are regarded as fully human with all human rights regardless of any sort of diminished physical or mental capacity,” he said. ” … To hold differently than that would be for us to say that some people are more equal than others.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.

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