Tuesday, November 18, 2003

More from MotherJones

The Making of the Corporate Judiciary: How Big Business is Quietly Funding a Judicial Revolution in the Nation's Courts by Michael Scherer
Like many of President Bush's lower-court nominees, William H. Pryor Jr. has had a hand in just about every legal social theory that drives Senate Democrats to outrage. As the attorney general of Alabama, he pushed for the execution of the mentally retarded, compared homosexuality to bestiality, defended the posting of Bible quotes at the courthouse door, and advocated rescinding a portion of the Voting Rights Act. He called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history."
Remember this young, angelic-looking nominee who was treated so gently by Senate Republicans and refused to answer most of the questions posed by Democrats? His extremely right-wing agenda was just the tip of the iceberg.
But it also obscured the most important factor in Pryor's swift rise from Mobile, Alabama, to the national stage: his longtime courting of corporate America. "The business community must be engaged heavily in the election process as it affects legal and judicial offices," Pryor told business leaders in 1999, after refusing to join other attorneys general in lawsuits against the tobacco and gun industries. To facilitate that engagement, Pryor created a controversial group called the Republican Attorneys General Association, which skirted campaign-finance laws by allowing corporations to give unlimited checks anonymously to support the campaigns of Pryor and other "conservative and free market oriented Attorneys General."

With such activism, Pryor positioned himself in the vanguard of a stealth campaign by American business to change the way that state and federal law is interpreted. Since 1998, major corporations -- Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and the insurance giant AIG, to name a few -- have spent more than $100 million through front groups to remake courts that have long been a refuge for wronged consumers and employees. By targeting incumbent judges, they have tilted state supreme courts to pro-business majorities and ousted aggressive attorneys general. At the same time, corporate lobbyists have blitzed state legislators with tort-reform proposals, overseeing the passage of new laws in 24 states over the past year alone.

Now, with a sympathetic ear in the White House, corporate America is taking its legal agenda to the federal bench with a behind-the-scenes campaign of high-powered lobbying and interest-group advertising. Pryor is just one of the corporate stars. Several of President Bush's nominees to federal appeals and district courts -- and even White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, a former Texas Supreme Court justice who now selects federal nominees for the president -- owe their careers to the support of the insurance, retail, and energy industries that got them elected on the state level.
The question is, why did Democrats filibuster only 4 of Bush's judicial nominees?


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