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UPDATE! Owen nomination has been delayed to Tues., July 23rd, at 2 p.m. Use this time to do urgently-needed lobbying for Justice Owen.

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Justice Held Hostage: Liberals "Bork" Owen
"Justice held hostage" is the description of the present stalemate over federal judicial nominations, according to Dr. Virginia Armstrong, the National Chairman of Eagle Forum's Court Watch. Armstrong was reacting to the liberal forces who have begun an active attack against Bush nominee Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. NOW, TARAL, and other liberal groups charge that Owen, a seven-year veteran Justice on the Texas Supreme Court, is pro-life, pro-business, and "well beyond the American mainstream, . . .even far to the right of the conservative majority of her own court" (according to Kae McLaughlin, Executive Director of TARAL).

Armstrong disputes these charges. She asserts that, "The paradoxical truth is that NOW, TARAL, and similar groups are the ones actually outside the American mainstream-far to the left. No wonder Justice Owen looks far right to them."

Owen is harshly criticized for accepting $8,600 from Enron and rendering decisions favorable to the now-bankrupt corporation. But Enron contributed to all members of the Texas Supreme Court; and Owen's most-attacked "pro-Enron" opinion came in a 1996 case where the Court's ruling was unanimous and bipartisan, based on two analogous U. S. Supreme Court decisions. Texas judges are elected, and contributions to candidates are universal, noted Armstrong, herself a Texan and a university political science and legal studies professor. The Texas Supremes entertained several Enron-related cases, and the Court split its votes evenly for and against the corporation. Owen received less money from Enron than some of her other colleagues and considerably less than U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Charles Schumer (an outspoken critic of Bush judicial nominees), who took $21,933 from Enron-related sources.

Liberals also castigate Owen for being "anti-abortion." This is a curious charge, responds Armstrong, who notes that Justice Owen has never litigated the issue as a lawyer or judge. In 2000, Owen did function as a judge should — as a law-interpreter — in dissenting from her Court's majority opinion regarding parental notification and minors' abortions. The Court majority, explains Armstrong, interpreted the parental notification standard too weakly, removing parents more than the Legislature intended from a minor child's decision-making concerning an abortion. The statute was clearly more protective of parents' involvement, and Owens so opined.

Owen displayed a similar respect for law and the limited judicial role when she joined the Court majority in denying a claim of rights violations under the Texas Constitution. According to Armstrong, Owen correctly reasoned that the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of homosexual activists, could bring a claim of rights violations only against a government, not against a private party-the Texas Republican Party in this case.

Armstrong sees the Owen battle as particularly important because Owen is one of the original eleven Court of Appeals nominees named by Bush on May 9, 2001-more than a year ago. Owen is one of the six of these nominees who have not even received a Judiciary Committee hearing. And the post to which Owen is nominated has been declared a "judicial emergency" by the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts because of the length that this seat has been vacant and the size of the Fifth Circuit's caseload.

The opposition to Owen is especially weak, asserts Armstrong, because of the Justice's qualifications. The ABA, whose nominee ratings are considered the "gold standard" by Senate Democrats, unanimously gave Justice Owen their highest possible rating-"well qualified." In her law school graduating class, she received the highest score on the Texas Bar exam; and she practiced law with a leading Texas law firm for 17 years. She won reelection to her current post in 2000 with 83% of the popular vote and the endorsement of every major Texas newspaper. She has also been active in innovative efforts to strengthen the family and to improve access to legal services for the poor. "As a Texan and a woman, I am especially proud to have a candidate of Justice Owen's qualifications to support," stated Armstrong. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Owen nomination is expected to be held Thursday, July 18.

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