Senate panel backs Brown for bench

Democrats signal effort to block Bush nominee

November 07, 2003|By Jan Greenburg | Jan Greenburg,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - With Democrats signaling that they will block the nomination in the full Senate, a sharply divided Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination yesterday of Janice Rogers Brown, a conservative African-American woman, to the District of Columbia-based federal appeals court.

The committee split 10-9 along party lines as it voted to send Brown's name to the Senate floor. Democrats, who have opposed her, predicted that she would become the fifth Bush nominee to be filibustered to prevent her from joining the federal bench.

Republicans argued yesterday that Brown's compelling life story, intelligence and judicial experience make her well qualified for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The daughter of an Alabama sharecropper who grew up under a system of Jim Crow, Brown worked her way through college and law school as a single mother before rising to become a justice on California's Supreme Court.

But Democrats said Brown's speeches and other writings show that she holds extremist views on the environment, civil rights and the role of government. Their unanimity in committee lays the foundation for another filibuster - a parliamentary delaying device to prevent a vote - and several Democrats said yesterday that such a move seems inevitable.

"We are not trying to be obstructionist. We are doing what we truly believe will affect Americans for generations," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat. "We will keep doing it in cases where the nominee is as wildly out of the mainstream, as Justice Brown is."

Democrats are filibustering several Bush nominees to the federal bench, including Priscilla Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice, and Charles Pickering, a federal district court judge, for seats on a New Orleans-based appeals court, as well as Alabama Attorney General William Pryor for a seat on an Atlanta-based appeals court. Republicans failed again yesterday to break the filibuster against Pryor.

Action on Bush's nomination of Virginian Claude A. Allen to a federal appellate court seat was put off for a week. That nomination has angered Maryland Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, who say the seat should go to a Marylander, as it has in the past.

The Democrats prevailed in their filibuster of Washington attorney Miguel Estrada, whose nomination to the D.C. federal appeals court stumbled after Democrats complained that he had not fully explained his legal views. Estrada, a highly credentialed lawyer who had been considered a contender for a future Supreme Court spot, was the first nominee to be subjected to a filibuster after Democrats lost their Senate majority in the 2002 elections. He withdrew his nomination in September.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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