Skip to main content /POLITICS

AIRS: Weeknights 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT
In the Crossfire

Defeated judge appointee on the docket

(CNN) -- President Bush's choice for a federal appeals court seat was defeated in committee on Thursday along a party-line vote. Was Priscilla Owens too conservative to serve on the federal bench or was she unfairly targeted by liberal interest groups? Ralph Neas with the group People for the America Way and former Florida Rep. Bill McCollum step into the "Crossfire" with hosts Robert Novak and Paul Begala.

NOVAK: Ralph Neas, a lot of people would probably be puzzled why the Judiciary Committee would reject Justice Owen, a fine record, very well-qualified, tremendous support from Texas, and the answer of why she was rejected comes from the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and let's listen to him.

(Videotape segment begins)

HATCH: Justice Owen is being opposed by an axis of profits. This axis of profits combines the money of trial lawyers in the abortion industry to fund the Washington special interest groups.

(Videotape segment ends)

NOVAK: The trial lawyers and the abortion industry, that's a pair you can't beat in Washington poker, can you?

NEAS: Bob, it's one of the most ridiculous statements I've ever heard Senator Orrin Hatch make. Today was a great victory for the American people because the Senate Judiciary Committee defeated a right-wing ideologue who would have turned back the clock on civil rights, consumer rights, the environment, and also reproductive rights.

NOVAK: It was all abortion, wasn't it, Ralph, to be honest?

NEAS: No, that's why I made this point, and, really, the main point was that the committee proved with documentation that this nominee, repeatedly, whenever her ideology clashed with the law, tried to change the law, remake the law. And the best witness is Alberto Gonzalez, counsel to President Bush.

NOVAK: That was a dissent.

NEAS: Eleven times. Not once, not twice, 11 times he wrote, "You are trying to remake the law." And guess what, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Texas, John Cornyn, several times said the same thing, "You're an activist."

NOVAK: That was in legal cases.

NEAS: Of course, it was. We're talking about...

NOVAK: You're making it appear that Gonzalez was opposed to the confirmation.

NEAS: Of course, he's not opposed. How can he be opposed if he's the counsel to President Bush? Yes, sir, I'll do whatever you want to do.

BEGALA: Let me ask you about something that is indisputable in the public record. The Texans for Public Justice analyzed Justice Owen's folks on the Texas Supreme Court. In Texas, we elect our judges. Many states do. But she had a remarkable record of ruling in favor of her contributors.

Get this. "Owen's 11th biggest litigant donors appeared in her courtroom 26 times. While these big docket donors appeared an enviable 77 percent of the time before the court as a whole, Owen, herself, was even kinder, favoring her contributors 85 percent of the time." Now, you were in the Congress. We didn't agree on anything, but you didn't vote with your contributors 85 percent of the time, Bill McCollum. Why should she?

MCCOLLUM: Let's set the record straight, Paul. This is outrageous partisan attack on this woman, and it's a spin that you're doing and others are doing.

BEGALA: That's not true. The statistics...

MCCOLLUM: Let me finish is this answer. Justice Owen was elected by 83 percent unopposed the last time. She was listed as well-qualified by the American Bar Association to this post she was nominated for, which is the highest rating the American Bar can give. She had the support of every major newspaper in the country, including the liberal "Washington Post." How can anyone really say that all of this stuff is really true? I'll tell you what,...

BEGALA: Are you comfortable with a judge who votes 85 percent of the time for her contributors to win a case before her, sir. Just answer the question, please.

MCCOLLUM: What else is there to answer the question.

BEGALA: Please. Pretty please.

MCCOLLUM: Yes, 10 percent of the time is how often she dissented from the majority of the Texas Supreme Court, which is less than half the time the United States Supreme Court Justice, on average, dissents. This is a many stream judge. Yes, I'm comfortable with how she voted because I think she voted the right way.




Back to the top