Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, June 8, 2005


Page 1


Brown Confirmation Expected Today as Senate Votes 65-32 to End Filibuster


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown is set to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate today to serve on the nation’s second highest court, after senators voted yesterday to end debate on the contentious selection.

The Senate invoked cloture on Brown’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by a vote of 65-32. Democrats Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Ken Conrad of North Dakota, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Ken Salazar of Colorado joined with the Senate’s 55 Republicans to bring the nomination to a final 30 hours of debate and a vote.

Brown will be the second of President Bush’s blocked nominees confirmed as part of a deal moderate senators worked out last month to avert a partisan showdown over the use of judicial filibusters. She had lacked the 60 needed to cut off the parliamentary delay tactic.

Bizarre Turn

The floor debate took a somewhat bizarre turn yesterday when Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. accused Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., of comparing Brown, the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court—to the racist Ku Klux Klan.

The dustup began when Schumer said Brown might want to be a “grand exalted leader” as a federal appeals judge in the D.C. Circuit.

“To have it suggested that somehow her ideas are consistent with the Ku Klux Klan is really offensive to me,” Sessions responded.

According to histories of the group, the Klan has Grand Dragons, Grand Titans, a Grand Cyclops, and a Grand Wizard, but no “grand exalted leader.”

“Some of these groups have accused her of being anti-civil rights,” Sessions said in an interview. “They’ve said she is regressive and wants to reverse gains in civil rights. Then he comes along and says she wants to be some grand exalted leader. What does that mean? Maybe he misspoke, but he was using awfully heated rhetoric about her I think is unjustified.”

‘Smokescreen’ Claimed

Of the Klan comparison, Schumer said later, “Every time we bring up a substantive argument, they create a smokescreen to distract from the real issues. Jeff Sessions knows that this is about Janice Rogers Brown believing she can simply rule from on high, putting herself above the Constitution and all previous laws and decisions.”

Brown’s supporters say critics are more concerned about stopping a conservative black woman from getting a seat of power inside the federal judiciary.

“This highly qualified African-American woman, the daughter of an Alabama sharecropper, has received appalling treatment by a group of hypocrites in the Senate, who always claim to support equal opportunity, yet refused to allow her nomination to even see the light of day,” said Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Opponents have portrayed her as a conservative judicial activist who ignores the law in favor of her own political views. They are critical of her record as a jurist who supported limits on abortion rights and corporate liability and opposed affirmative action.

“Her undisguised hostility to other long settled civil rights law as well as to administrative law makes her particularly unsuitable for the D.C. Circuit, which has exclusive or influential jurisdiction over many administrative agency matters critical to the advancement of blacks and Hispanics,” said Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., head of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Brown was originally nominated to the D.C. Circuit on July 25, 2003 and cleared the Judiciary Committee on a vote of 10-9, but an attempt to invoke cloture failed on Nov. 14, 2003.  The vote was 53-43 in favor of cloture, seven short of the required three-fifths majority of the entire Senate.

The nomination was resubmitted Feb. 14, and was approved by the Judiciary Committee on another party-line vote.

Brown, 56, is a graduate of California State University, Sacramento and UCLA School of Law. She was a deputy legislative counsel, a deputy state attorney general, general counsel of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, and a senior associate at the Nielsen Merksamer law firm in Sacramento before then-Gov. Pete Wilson tapped her as his legal affairs secretary in 1991.

Wilson appointed her to the Third District Court of Appeal in 1994 and elevated her to the state’s highest court two years later.


Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company