Pressure Groups Begin to Weigh In
Updated 2:26 p.m.
By Garance Franke-Ruta
In the first signs of what is sure to be an avalanche of lobbying to come, advocacy groups today began the process of arguing for and against certain Supreme Court candidates, or categories of candidates.
Some of the first to weigh in were players in 2008 presidential campaign dust-ups. Others included long-time advocates for liberal causes, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Alliance for Justice.
The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women's group founded during the heady days of the 2008 presidential race, called on President Obama to fill the soon to be vacant seat "with a qualified woman."
"Women's experiences, expectations, and lives are sufficiently different from men's that men can not represent women no matter how sympathetic they may be," said Nancy Hopkins, MIT biology professor and New Agenda co-founder, in a statement. "Women are best represented by women. The fact that only one of nine Supreme Court Justices is a woman is an enormous injustice to the women of the United States. We expect -- we demand -- that President Obama begin to correct this injustice."
New Agenda's list of "exemplar candidates for the Supreme Court seat" includes: Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; Kathleen Sullivan, dean of the Stanford Law School; Judge Diane Pamela Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit; Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears; Judge Kimberly McLane Wardlaw, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit; Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Sandra Lea Lynch, chief judge of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan; Judge M. Margaret McKeown of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Stanford University Law Professor Pamela S. Karlan.
Of those names, three frequently mentioned as leading candidates are already drawing fire from the right -- and from a group that intimated, in an Oct. 2008 television ad, that Obama might appoint someone like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to the court.
Wendy Long, chief counsel of the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network released a memo objecting that "The current Supreme Court is a liberal, judicial activist court. Obama could make it even more of a far-left judicial activist court, for a long time to come, if he appoints radicals like Diane Wood, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan."
"A new Justice in this mold would just entrench a bad majority for a long time," she continued.
In particular, she objected to the idea of a judge who might rule based on "her own 'deepest values' and what's in her own 'heart' -- instead of what is in the Constitution and laws" and told the president that Americans "did not elect him because they share his views on judges. By a margin of more and 3 to 1, Americans want Supreme Court Justices who will practice judicial restraint and follow the law, not jurists who will indulge their own personal views and experiences in deciding cases."
Such objections are sure to be just the tip of the iceberg as conservatives seek to influence the process in an environment where Democrats will hold a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, issued a statement that avoided mentioning any specific names and argued for adding another supporter of "the constitutional right to privacy as reflected in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision" to the court.
Calling the court in "a tenuous position" and "hostile to a woman's right to choose," thanks to the addition of President Bush's appointees, Keenan said "it will be critical for President Obama to nominate -- and for the U.S. Senate to confirm -- a successor who will uphold American liberties, like those set forth in Roe, that respect individual freedom and prevent politicians from interfering in our most personal, private decisions."
"Without a doubt, opponents of women's freedom and privacy will use a vacancy on the Court as an opportunity to further their attacks on nominees who have taken pro-choice positions. America's pro-choice majority will fight back," she said.
With Souter's retirement, Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron said, "The president can look to a broad array of legal talent to select a nominee who not only has an excellent record in the law, but also a respect for core constitutional values and a commitment to equal justice for all not just a few."
The Alliance is an association of environmental, civil rights, mental health, women's, children's, and consumer advocacy organizations, and was founded in 1979.
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