Steve Ralls

No Legal Opinion

Filed By Steve Ralls | August 16, 2007 8:48 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Alliance for Justice, Harriet Miers, Jennifer Elrod, judiciary, leslie southwick, Senate, steve ralls

Remember President Bush's botched nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court? (Bill Maher still refers to it as that time when Bush "tried to put the White House cleaning lady on the nation's highest court.") Well, now it appears as if Bush is trying to one-up himself. The President has nominated Jennifer Elrod for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. But unlike many of his other judicial nominees, it's impossible to say that Elrod does or doesn't know what she's doing. You see, the 41-year-old judge has never written a legal opinion.

That's right, not one.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which recently moved forward on the nomination of Leslie Southwick after Senator Dianne Feinstein cast a deciding vote on the nomination, is now considering putting Elrod on one of the nation's highest courts, despite a shocking lack of judicial experience on Elrod's part.

Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said in a press release that, "Judge Elrod's lack of experience, combined with her failure to provide meaningful answers, makes this nomination too risky for the judiciary and the American people. The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to closely scrutinize the nominees who come before them seeking a lifetime appointment to this court."

How can a Senator accurately critique the fitness of a nominee who has served only five years as a district judge (in Harris County, Texas) and has never weighed in with a single legal opinion of her own?

As far as President Bush is concerned, it looks like Elrod's political leanings (she has strong ties to the Republican party) are qualification enough to sit in judgement of Americans' constitutional rights.

The Southwick debacle - in which Feinstein helped advance the nomination of a judge who had written racist and homophobic opinions during his time on the lower court - should be a wake-up call for those of us who believe in qualification above politics for our country's courts. Though our community generally weighs in with vigorous activism on nominations for the highest court in the land, we haven't done enough to hold the Senate Judiciary Committee members responsible for allowing Bush to stack other important courts with risky judges. That has to change.

If your Senator is on the Committe, weigh in and ask them not to qualify an unknown for the federal judiciary. Our rights, and our courts, are too precious to put in the hands of judges who don't write opinions and refuse to answer questions.


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Um, trial court judges almost never issue opinions of law. It's not their function.

I'm not saying she's the most awesomest nominee ever, but she's HLS, clerked for a federal judge and has, you know, actually been a lawyer (a litigator in fact) -- including (unlike John Edwards) quite a bit of pro bono work.

Nepotism or not, she's no Harriet Miers or Leslie Southwick.

Leland Frances | August 17, 2007 3:09 AM

Oh, please, Kip! I don't care if she's discovered a cure for AIDS and is giving the meds away.

NO ONE nominated for the courts [or as federal prosecutors—paging Not So Speedy Gonzalez!] by the Bush Reich is good for America. Two words: John Roberts. Shrub's new Chief Justice FOR LIFE assured the judiciary committee that he respected the Court's precedents. Then, within months, he leads the Court [everyone agrees it's now "the Roberts Court"] into reversing Brown v. Board of Education—one of THE greatest decisions in the history of our country; one that it had grown justly proud of for finally beginning to reverse the nation's [and the Court's] racist history. So I don't know where you're coming from. Someone who actually knows her, and, therefore forgives all things? Or a gay Repugnant or just Repugnant here to stir shit?

As for your lying slur against Edwards, I got bad news for you. In the latest poll of California voters:

Hillary would beat ANY Repug candidate!

Obama would beat ANY Repug candidate!!

Edwards would beat ANY Repug candidate!!!

And it's only a matter of time before the rest of the states line up to shit-can for years to come the "court" of King George II.

Steve Ralls | August 17, 2007 8:42 AM

So Kip, are you insinuating that AFJ - which has a long record of making pretty smart predictions about who turns out to be a fair justice - is not smart and savvy enough to know an inexperienced and unqualified political hack when it sees one?

Elrod has refused to give an opinion about anything, to either her courtroom or to the Judiciary Committee. If she's not going to answer questions, and there's no record of what her judicial philosophy is, she should be rejected. Period.

Leland is right: Bush's nominees now have an undeniable track record of throwing out precedent like yesterday's trash. It's revolting, and the Democrats need to stop the court-stacking that Bush is doing.

Senator Schumer is right. The Dems shouldn't approve another Bush Supreme Court pick . . . but they should also just stop confirming lower court nominees, too.

Personally, I distrust anyone picked by the Bush administration to fill ANY position. They've all been crooks and liars without any respect for the Constitution.

I agree with you, Bil. Bush only seems to appoint brainless yes men (and women). If you don't agree with him 100%, he won't nominate you.