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Is getting a pro-lifer on the federal bench more important than the normal confirmation process?
January 16, 2004 4:37 PM   Subscribe

On the fast track to the Supremes --In a recess appointment, Bush put Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans today. The American Life League is thrilled, but NARAL not so much.
posted by amberglow (33 comments total)

Here's a little more about Pickering's record
posted by amberglow at 4:39 PM on January 16, 2004

"Charles Pickering is a lifelong anti-choice extremist. Maybe wrong saying this, these words describe an antiabortion thinkger but "owner of a the world's smalleest mind"(if true, "man" too kind).
posted by thomcatspike at 4:45 PM on January 16, 2004

Make sure you read the second graph. As a recess appointment he only serves until the next Congress in Jan 2005. It may be 11.5 months too long in the eyes of many, but "On the fast track to the Supremes" hardly.
posted by ednopantz at 5:01 PM on January 16, 2004

This (biased toward Bush and pro-recess appointments) thing at Findlaw says, about that: At that point, the President has plenary discretion to give the official a second recess commission, nominate her and have her go through the traditional confirmation process, or simply cut her lose. (In contrast, federal judges nominated and confirmed through traditional procedures serve for life without any further review by the President). Recess appointees often secure easy confirmation if subsequently nominated. (emphasis mine)
posted by amberglow at 5:08 PM on January 16, 2004

Let's see. Last year George W. Bush celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday by issuing a press statement condemning Affirmative Action. So this year, he celebrated it by appointing a cross-burning supporter to the Federal bench.

Being a compassionate conservative sure is hard work.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:08 PM on January 16, 2004

"I'm a uniter, not a divider."

Great move for a "uniter."
Hmmm, uniting the world against you, the corrupt corporate heads, your racist friends and the "christian" fundamentalists? Ought be a landslide victory in November, eh?
posted by nofundy at 5:16 PM on January 16, 2004

STFU XQUZYPHYR. He's not a cross burner. He made an appropriate ruling in a difficult cross burning case.

Perhaps you identify with the low IQ suspect.
posted by paleocon at 5:17 PM on January 16, 2004

Here's an interesting thing on Repub. reaction to Clinton's last recess appointment -- Roger Gregory (appointed in 2000 and still on the bench.

How often are recess appointments removed? Anyone know?
posted by amberglow at 5:23 PM on January 16, 2004

paleocon: I appreciate that people take politics personally, but maybe lighten up on the ad homs on mefi members, your point would have been much more effective with just the second and third lines.

Anyway, can someone explain, or better yet point to a link, explaining how the judicial nomination process is supposed to work as a whole?

I feel like I keep learning new things -- e.g. the whole mess last time that blocking apointments is actually sort of standard practice. Are recess appointments something most president's have done? If so, it's hardly shocking, but does seem like an odd system. Not as broken as congressional districts, but it does seem a little off.
posted by malphigian at 5:32 PM on January 16, 2004

paleocon, maybe Pickering didn't hold the match to the wood. And I can see the arguments for the sentence reduction. But Pickering said about the offense on record, "Sometimes, youthful pranks under the influence of alcohol on a cold winter night can get you in a heap of trouble." This was in 1994.

And Pickering did leave the Democratic Party in 1964 for the GOP because he opposed the civil rights movement. He did perjure himself to the U.S. Senate and say he had absolutely no contact with the Sovereignty Commission, Mississippi's anti-black secret police, and he has been affiliated for over 40 years with one of the state's most infamous racists, former lt. governor and head of the Sovereignty Commission, Carroll Gartin.

Walk? Quack? Duck. I don't want him representing me or any other part of the 5th District, which is soon to be majority-minority.
posted by pineapple at 5:41 PM on January 16, 2004

malphigian, here's a 1999 Slate article called What is a Recess Appointment?. I'm still poking around myself to find out how common it is, and whether it's usually used in the case of such controversial candidates.
posted by pineapple at 5:50 PM on January 16, 2004

thomcatspike: Just how drunk are you?

Walk? Quack? Duck. I don't want him representing me or any other part of the 5th District, which is soon to be majority-minority.

Wouldn't that make it 100% minority?
posted by delmoi at 5:52 PM on January 16, 2004

Here's a long Legal Theory Blog post on recess appointments and life tenure, and constitutionality. Maybe some law student/lawyer here can summarize?
posted by amberglow at 6:00 PM on January 16, 2004

Sieg heil, mother fucker.
posted by the fire you left me at 6:34 PM on January 16, 2004

thomcatspike: Just how drunk are you?

"Walk? Quack? Duck. I don't want him representing me or any other part of the 5th District, which is soon to be majority-minority."

Wouldn't that make it 100% minority?

Now delmoi, I'm sure you understand that "minority" these days refers to underpriveleged groups as well as, or maybe rather than, groups which make up less than 50% of the populace. Object if you like, but don't pretend not to understand.
posted by uosuaq at 7:27 PM on January 16, 2004

I blame the people that bitch about it and don't vote.
This could have been prevented. Don't let it happen again.
posted by 2sheets at 7:29 PM on January 16, 2004

I blame the people that bitch about it and don't vote.
This could have been prevented. Don't let it happen again.

There's also the electoral college...many people's votes just don't count. I bitch plenty, but whether I vote or not, all this state's electoral votes will go to the Democratic candidate.
I don't blame the Nader voters or Florida, either...I'd blame the Bush voters, pricipally...but at bottom I blame the media for not reporting the simple fact that Bush was not fit to be president. Without a good press, we are--or have been--screwed.
posted by uosuaq at 7:39 PM on January 16, 2004

Since 1791, 15 Supreme Court Justices began their tenure with a recess appointment, the most recent being Justice Potter Stewart in 1958. - from CSPAN's Capitol Questions (he's famous for being the guy who said "I know it when I see it" regarding pornography)
posted by amberglow at 7:46 PM on January 16, 2004

amberglow: the one-sentence summary is that it's very tough to seriously argue from either the text of the constitution or the founding fathers' apparent understanding of the text that recess appointments are unconstitutional. I'll have to give it some more thought before making up my mind, but on an initial read, I thought he was quite persuasive in his argument.

On the other hand, I find it his apocalytic scenario of all judges in the country being appointed through recess appointments rather implausible, and I don't think that federal judges are quite as politicized as he seems to believe. People overlook the fact that Bush has successfully appointed over 150 judges to the federal bench since taking office with little or no opposition from the Democrats
posted by boltman at 8:03 PM on January 16, 2004

thanks boltman--I think us laymen do see federal judges as political, knowing that dems nominate like-minded people to the bench, and repubs likewise. The media also never fails to report sensational cases on the court of appeals (like that "under god" thing) furthering the belief, and then there's the whole Florida/Supreme Court thing....
posted by amberglow at 8:07 PM on January 16, 2004

Well, there's no question that there's a link between judicial philosophy and politics and that conservative judges will often see a legal issue quite differently than liberal ones. But, from what I've seen, few judges, liberal or conservative, if forced to choose between their immediate ideological preference in a case before them and the clear mandate of the law (or even between their ideological preference and their overarching judicial philosophy) , will choose the former. For most judges, ideology works in a more subtle way, coloring how they understand and interact with the law at a very fundamental, possibly even subconcious level. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think many judges view themselves as ideological warriors, even if their decisions may sometimes so suggest. I think they are generally making what they view as principled and legally sound decisions.

Even at the Supreme Court level -- inevitably the most politicized level of the federal courts -- the justices, while predictable in some ways and on some issues, are all far less predictable than, say, a senator or the president, or any other professional politician you could think of.

I'm not arguing that liberals have nothing to worry about from Bush's judicial nominees. Quite the contrary, I think a second Bush term would be a disaster for the country for precisely this reason, since Bush seems to have picked the justice system as his sacrificial lamb to the far right. I'm just not so sure that it is fair or accurate to label many federal judges as "politicized" in the sense that a professional politician is.
posted by boltman at 9:41 PM on January 16, 2004

I hope you're right, boltman, but I was just reminded of the 10 commandments judge in alabama as another example--I think many are ideologically-driven (on both sides and for good and bad), if those are better words than politicized.
posted by amberglow at 9:51 PM on January 16, 2004

"I don't think many judges view themselves as ideological warriors, even if their decisions may sometimes so suggest. I think they are generally making what they view as principled and legally sound decisions."

I suppose this is true but - by the same token - most everyone sees themselves as principled and impartial, and I almost always agree with that quot;principled" part of those claims. But impartial? Not at all.

Torquemada thought himself rather impartial, whilst his victims bodies were being pulled apart upon the rack.
posted by troutfishing at 10:11 PM on January 16, 2004

Or, to rephrase that: no one believes themself to be bad or evil, and very few ever admit, publicly, to evil acts. Hitler himself (our current stand in for absolute evil) did not believe himself to be evil.

Evil is defined by way of collective judgement, I feel.

I'm not saying that Pickering is EVIL, of course.

Pernicious, perhaps, but not evil. Acts are evil, but not mere humans.
posted by troutfishing at 10:23 PM on January 16, 2004

amberglow: sorry, I should have clarified that I was talking only about federal judges, who are appointed for life and can be removed only through impeachment. Most state judges (including the crazy 10 commandants judge) are elected. They basically are politicians and, unfortunately, many do tend to behave like. (incidentally, the 10 commandments judge ought be a poster child for why judicial elections are a colossally bad idea. New York City is another).

troutfishing: I guess I would agree that judges are definitely not impartial in the sense you are using it. My main point was that they don't tend to act in the same kind of overtly politicized way that politicians do. As bad as Scalia is from a liberal's point of view, he doesn't pander to anybody. On a few criminal justice and civil liberties issues he can be quite liberal, or at least libertarian. On issues of executive power, he has been just as protective of it whether the president is Bill Clinton or George Bush.

I'm just saying that unless Pickering and company are radically more political than the current judges, I don't think the judicial branch is in danger of turning into some sort of life-tenured uber-legislature, as the article seemed to be suggesting at the end. That's not to say that they won't do real damage to the country, just probably not irreversable structural damage.
posted by boltman at 12:53 AM on January 17, 2004

Sieg heil, mother fucker.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:34 PM CST on January 16

This was an allusion to Wolfowitz speaking at MIT, as the stage was rushed with students yelling the aforementioned.
posted by the fire you left me at 6:52 AM on January 17, 2004

thomcatspike: Just how drunk are you?
delmoi, thanks, used spell check, posted and have no clue what happened. Before posting must have hit the pack "back" button, then posted, smalleest almost works. But you maybe right, drunk with work, since the 1st I've had lots of overtime:P

"Charles Pickering is a lifelong anti-choice extremist. These words not only describe an antiabortion thinker but the "owner of the world's smallest mind" imho. What man is anti-choice since he can't get pregnant; unless he chooses no sex.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:07 AM on January 17, 2004

Certainly, recent decisions in the fields of education, transportation, and recreation, would cause one to wonder how long the Supreme Court will allow any statute to stand which uses the term "race" to draw a distinction. However, it is submitted that the Supreme Court will not invalidate the miscegenation statutes, for some time at least. This conclusion is based on the fact that one-half of the states in the Union have miscegenation statutes of some kind, and the further fact that on two different occasions within the last five years the Court has deliberately avoided deciding cases pertaining to miscegenation statutes.[n.15] Therefore, if Section 2000 of the Code of 1942 is to serve the purpose that the legislature undoubtedly intended it to serve, the section should be amended.[n.16]
posted by subgenius at 9:49 AM on January 17, 2004

I wouldn't piss on the man unless he wasn't on fire.
posted by trondant at 10:12 AM on January 17, 2004

Trip With Cheney Puts Ethics Spotlight on Scalia

Vice President Dick Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent part of last week duck hunting together at a private camp in southern Louisiana just three weeks after the court agreed to take up the vice president's appeal in lawsuits over his handling of the administration's energy task force.

While Scalia and Cheney are avid hunters and longtime friends, several experts in legal ethics questioned the timing of their trip and said it raised doubts about Scalia's ability to judge the case impartially.

posted by y2karl at 11:38 PM on January 17, 2004

But Scalia rejected that concern Friday, saying, "I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned."

posted by homunculus at 12:04 AM on January 18, 2004

I'm sure that Scalia feels such a sense of Olympian objectivity that he feels that going duck hunting with Cheney wouldn't compromise his judgement in the slightest.

Did I say "Olympian"? - Leda and the Swan? Hmmm.....
posted by troutfishing at 10:01 AM on January 18, 2004

Yeah, that does look pretty bad.

However, I don't think there was ever any real doubt about which way Scalia was going to vote on this. He has always been a big advocate for unbridled executive power.
posted by boltman at 11:24 PM on January 18, 2004

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