Thursday, September 05, 2002

Judge Priscilla Owen was just rejected by the US Senate committee, by a party-line vote. She was a opposed by radical abortion proponents, because she voted to uphold parental notification laws, and by trial lawyers, because she refused to create new liabilities in certain cases. Eleanor Clift said on Fox TV that the smoking gun against Owen was that Bush's own counsel attacked her for being a judicial activist. Much of the press repeated this charge uncritically. What Gonzales said, was:

The dissenting opinions suggest that the exceptions to the general rule of notification should be very rare and require a high standard of proof. ... Thus, to construe the Parental Notification Act so narrowly as to eliminate bypasses, or to create hurdles that simply are not to be found in the words of the statute, would be an unconscionable act of judicial activism.

Maybe so, but that wasn't Owen's argument. There were 3 dissents in the case, and the ones by Hecht and Abbott argued that the notification exceptions should be rare, based on the well-documented intent of the legislators who passed the law. It is just not true that Gonzales accused Owen of judicial activism. If anything, Gonzales was upset by Hecht's charges of judicial activism on the part of the majority.

Here is the majority opinion, and another concurring one. Eastland defends Owens' opinion here.

Typical media coverage was the NY Times, saying:

To the discomfort of Republicans, Democrats repeatedly cited the words of Alberto R. Gonzales, Mr. Bush's White House counsel who served with Justice Owen on the Texas court. Mr. Gonzales wrote in a June 2000 ruling that her dissenting opinion trying to impose more conditions than the Legislature required for a minor to obtain an abortion was "an unconscionable act of judicial activism."

Similarly, the Wash. Post said, "White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, when he served with her on the Texas high court, labeled one of Owen's dissents as 'judicial activism.'"

But Gonzales did not say that. Owen's dissent did not try to impose more conditions. Her objection concerned the procedures in which the majority decided that the teenager had met the statutory requirement that she was mature and sufficiently well informed to consent to an abortion without parental notification. The majority agreed that this is the statutory requirement. The Gonzales comment is a bit sloppy, but he is not really even referring to Owen's dissent. What Gonzales was really doing was using a straw man argument as a rhetorical device for retaliating against Hecht for his stinging criticism.

The NY Times also said:

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, offered her own electoral comment, saying President Bush's narrow victory did not give him a mandate to shift the ideological balance on the courts. ... Senator Feinstein said she regretted voting against a woman for a judicial nomination for the first time and rejecting the advice of Senator Hutchison, but she said she could not abide Justice Owen's efforts to place additional hurdles before young women seeking abortions.

Feinstein is an embarrassment to use in California. Here, she combines the following idiocies.

  • She thinks that Bush should have less power because he didn't get a majority of the popular votes.
  • She thinks that confirming Owen is going to shift an ideological balance.
  • She applies sex discrimination when she votes for judges.
  • She insists on calling an underage female a woman instead of a girl.
  • She is against parental notification when a minor gets an abortion.
  • She mistakenly thinks that Owen is placing hurdles to get abortions.

She sounds like she just reads from a script provided by certain special interest groups.

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