What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Judicial Nominations : Brown Nomination/Vote to End Debate on the Nomination of Janice Rodgers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. (2005 senate Roll Call 130)
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Brown Nomination/Vote to End Debate on the Nomination of Janice Rodgers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
senate Roll Call 130     Jun 07, 2005
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Today's nine U.S. Supreme Court justices have served together for the longest stretch of time in the nation's history. As they age, however, a retirement (or death) among them becomes increasingly likely. Consequently, nominations to the federal bench have taken on a highly partisan cast in recent years as both political parties have accused each other of filibustering well-qualified judicial nominees selected by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Progressives have argued that President Bush has been trying to stack the federal bench with right-wing ideologues in the hopes of appointing one to the U.S. Supreme Court should a vacancy open; the battle over the nomination of Miguel Estrada during the 108th Congress (2003-2004) offers a prime example. Conservatives have complained that Senate Democrats have unfairly blocked votes on President Bush's judicial nominees. The President and not the Senate, they argue, has the sole power of judicial appointment. On May 23, 2005, a judicial compromise drafted by a moderate "gang of 14" senators deflated a procedural strategy advanced by Majority Leader Frist (R-TN) and dubbed the "nuclear option" by former Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) which would have reinterpreted Senate rules so as to prevent extended debate (a filibuster) on President Bush's judicial nominees, including any to the U.S. Supreme Court. The "gang of 14" compromise allowed three of President Bush's most controversial nominees-Pricilla Owen, Janice Rodgers Brown, and William Pryor-to proceed in the legislative process while two other nominees remained blocked. Those pivotal moderate senators also pledged to oppose the proposed change in Senate rules, a pact which denied Majority Leader Frist the votes needed to change Senate rules governing the consideration of judicial nominees. The subject of this vote was a motion to invoke cloture on the nomination of Janice Rodgers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a position widely regarded as a stepping stone to the U.S. Supreme Court. Sixty votes are required to invoke cloture and, if invoked, cloture limits debate on the nominee and allows for a final vote on confirmation. Progressives voted against cloture based on their numerous concerns with the nominee. "Janice Rogers Brown has not only shown her willingness to re-write our Federal laws but has also indicated a desire to re-interpret the U.S. Constitution, even if doing so would reverse 70-year-old precedent. Justice Brown has publicly supported a return to the era of Lochner v. New York, one of the most discredited Supreme Court cases in history," remarked Senator John Kerry (D-MA). (In Lochner (1905), the Supreme Court ruled that a New York labor law which prevented bakery owners from working their bakers more than ten hours in a single day was an unconstitutional burden on the right of contract between employer and employee.) Senator Boxer (D-CA) produced a legal evaluation of Brown by the California Bar Association. It read in part: "Bar evaluators received complaints that Brown was insensitive to established legal precedent...lacked compassion and intellectual tolerance for opposing views, misunderstood legal standards and was slow to produce opinions...She does not possess the minimum qualifications necessary for appointment to the highest court in the State [of California]." Progressives were also concerned with remarks made by Brown in 2000. She was quoted as saying: "Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates, and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched, culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible." In light of these remarks, Senator Corzine (D-NJ) argued that, "I believe that her appointment to a lifetime tenured position on the D.C. Circuit Court will lead to the destruction of so many of the achievements we have struggled to achieve during the past 70 years-the creation of a social safety net, the advancement of civil rights for all Americans, and the protection of workers throughout our country." Conservatives supported the nomination of Janice Rodgers Brown and voted in favor of cloture. In the view of Senator Sessions (R-AL), "She is a woman of integrity and ability, with proven skill as an appellate jurist. She has won the support and admiration of her colleagues on the California appellate courts with whom she served and has won the support of the people of California, as evidenced by her being reelected to the California Supreme Court with 76 percent of the vote." In response to charges against Brown leveled by Progressives, Sessions asked, "Where is the meat? What is it that shows Justice Brown is not fair, that she is incapable? I don't see it. As a matter of fact, they have examined her record in great detail, every speech she has given, everything she has done in her life, remarks she has made, opinions she has written. She is a restrained jurist, respected by her colleagues and the people before whom she practices." On a vote of 65-32, the cloture motion was agreed to and the nomination of Janice Rodgers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was allowed to proceed to a final vote.

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