In case your head has been the sand for a while, there is a spat going on in the Senate about confirming judges. The Democrats are refusing to allow a vote on a handful of people who President Bush nominated for federal judgeships. The claim is that these appointees are radicals, far out of the mainstream. Right wing zealots. And even worse, religious people who will not be able to separate their faith from the law when ruling.
The real issue here is the Supreme Court. The Democrats fear that these judges are just too damn good at their jobs... while at the same time being fairly conservative. If they get confirmed and do a great job on whatever court they are sent to, then they will be likely Supreme Court candidates. The election of 2004 was important because of the current make up of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Rehnquist is deathly ill and is certain to retire. Justice Stevens and Justice O'Connor are pretty old and will probably retire soon. That's 3 new justices that the current president will get to appoint.
Rehnquist is a conservative, so while his replacement doesn't change the ideological make up of the court, it puts a new person in the Chief's chair. Justice Scalia is the favorite of the Vegas odds makers. O'Connor is moderate to conservative. She is typically the swing vote in 5-4 decisions. Replacing her with a strong conservative guarantees a vote that was often not easy to predict. Stevens is the Court's staunch liberal. Replacing him with a conservative justice will be a huge win in the Republicans' column.
William Pryor is an appointee designated for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (he's on there now as a recess appoint, meaning the President appointed him while the Senate wasn't in session). He has been attacked unfairly as being one of these religious nuts who will rule with a Bible, not the law. Senator Schumer said "[Pryor's] beliefs are so deeply held that it's very difficult to believe those views won't influence how he follows the law. A person's views matter."
Interestingly enough, Pryor ruled against former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore during the controversy over the Ten Commandments monument in the state judicial building. Pryor personally agreed with Moore. He personally agrees with allowing the monument to stay. But he ruled against Moore because that was the law. Try again, Senator Schumer.
As far as a person's views mattering, do they really? Pryor is pro-life and the law of the land is Roe v Wade
. Does disagreeing with the law keep you from positions of interpreting and enforcing the law? If so, Janet Reno should not have been allowed to be Attorney General. She is opposed to the death penalty, and federal law uses capital punishment. But I guess that's okay. She's a Democrat after all.
The attack that is most near and dear to my heart comes from the Senator from the great state of Wisconsin, one Russell Feingold.
During the confirmation hearing, Feingold attacked Pryor for actions he took while Attorney General of Alabama. Pryor was blasted for arguing in a brief before the Supreme Court that equated private homosexual activity to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, incest, and pedophilia." That's quite a list of perversion, huh? I wonder where Pryor got it...
Oh yeah, that language is taken from Justice White's majority opinion in Bowers v Hardwick.
That opinion is (was) the law. When you are arguing a case, you must cite other cases that back up the decision you are looking for. Past cases like Bowers
are precedent; they are considered as "the law." As an attorney, you aren't just standing there saying what you think the law should be. Pryor's argument was exactly the argument that any skilled lawyer would make. And what's worse is that Feingold knows this. Hell, he went to Harvard Law. He just made this attack so he could use a string of naughty words that would get attached to Pryor's record.
The other crap attack that Feingold made concerned Pryor and Disney World. Yeah. Seriously. Feingold said that Pryor rescheduled his family vacation to Disney World when he found out that it would correspond with Gay Day. Because of that, Feingold claims that a gay person would feel uncomfortable coming before Pryor as a judge.
If you haven't seen pictures of what the Gay Day crowd looks like, track them down online. Then ask yourself if you would take your 4 and 6 year old daughters to Disney World on that day. Even if you would go, would you say that someone who chose to reschedule was anti-homosexual?
Pryor is smart and he is capable, so he is dangerous. He wouldn't be so attacked if he wasn't so feared.