Alabama Attorney General William Pryor has argued against tough
enforcement of the Clean Air Act, in favor of reducing the amount of
wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act, and for the rights of
polluting industries over nearby residents.
|Judge Who? The mystery man above appeared as part of an ad placed in
Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, by the Sierra Club and other
groups concerned about Bush's judicial nominations. See the complete ad
Pryor also recently joined a series of anti-environmental nominees, most
notably Miguel Estrada and Carolyn Kuhl, that the Bush administration
has attempted to hustle into lifetime judicial appointments. But due to
fierce debate in the Senate, their futures remain in question as the
August recess begins.
"We want President Bush to nominate judges with records of enforcing
laws that protect our clean air, our clean water, and our special
places," says David Bookbinder, senior attorney for the Sierra Club.
"The courts may be the last hope we have to halt the Bush
administration's assault on the environment."
The most mysterious nominee is Miguel Estrada, the administration's
candidate for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, often cited as the the
nation's second most influential court. In a striking maneuver, the
White House is attempting to withhold or keep secret all details about
Estrada's legal background and views, and use its political weight to
push him through the Senate judicial approval process.
Estrada has never
served as on the bench before. He spent most of the 1990s at the Justice
Department, which has refused to release the legal briefs he wrote
there. He declined to offer opinions on a wide range of cases during a
Senate Judiciary hearing, including American Trucking v. EPA, in which
the Supreme Court upheld strong protections that eliminate soot and smog
pollution from vehicles.
Yet the Bush administration was surprised when
Democratic senators refused to approve Estrada. "We applaud those
senators who refused to mindlessly rubber stamp Estrada's nomination and
instead are demanding answers," says Sierra Club Executive Director Carl
Unfortunately, what is known about the other nominees may be more
troubling than what is unknown about Estrada.
Because of Judge Carolyn Kuhl's troubling record on a variety of issues,
California's two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein,
asked Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch not to send her nomination to
the floor. The most troubling example of Judge Kuhl's ideology came
during her argument in UAW v.Brock (1986), where she unequivocally urged
the Supreme Court to overrule the doctrine of associational standing.
This doctrine is the legal basis that allows environmental groups, trade
unions, and other organizations to represent their members' interests in
court. Without it, the Sierra Club and many other groups would be
crippled in their ability to hold polluters and governments accountable.
Kuhl, Pryor, and others are also devoted to the values of "new
federalism," which elevates state sovereignty over Congress' authority,
an especially dangerous doctrine when the White House is encouraging the
loosening of environmental regulations, and states may be tempted to
lower the bar even further to compete for business.
Opposing judicial nominees is not business-as-usual at the Sierra Club.
Despite strong objections to others like Priscilla Owens and Charles
Pickering, only 5 of the 150 nominees proposed by the Bush
administration have been opposed – Estrada, Pryor, and Kuhl, Jeffrey
Sutton for the Sixth Circuit and Victor Wolski for the Court of Federal
Write or call your senators and tell them to oppose the Bush
administration's tactics and nominees. The administration must consult
with the Senate before selecting nominees, allow lawmakers access to
candidates' background information, and choose nominees that respect the
environment and the Constitution.
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