Your new judge: Liberal democracy = slavery

The Senate confirms Janice Rogers Brown, and it's about to get worse: William Pryor is next.

By Tim Grieve
Published June 9, 2005 12:53PM (EDT)

In an odd bit of a closing-the-barn-door timing, the New York Times has a profile today of Janice Rogers Brown, the California Supreme Court justice the U.S. Senate confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday. For those who think the "Gang of 14" compromise that averted the nuclear option was a disaster for Democrats and for the judiciary, too, the Times' piece has got to be the new Exhibit A.

"In the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery," the Times quotes Brown as saying. In a speech several years ago, Brown told the Federalist Society: "We no longer find slavery abhorrent. We embrace it." In another speech: "If we can invoke no ultimate limits on the power of government, a democracy is inevitably transformed into a kleptocracy - a license to steal, a warrant for oppression."

While Brown's supporters have downplayed comments like these as just the thought-provoking remarks one might make in a speech, the Times says that Brown's opinions on the California Supreme Court "have reflected the philosophy and language of her speeches." In one opinion on fees charged to hotel owners in San Francisco, for example, Brown wrote that "private property, already an endangered species in California, is now entirely extinct in San Francisco."

Brown was confirmed yesterday by a vote of 56 to 43; independent Jim Jeffords didn't vote, and Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat and "Gang of 14" member, crossed over to join Republicans in voting to confirm Brown. The "Gang of 14" deal made the floor vote on Brown possible; before that deal was struck, Republicans lacked the votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster of Brown's nomination.

Next up: William Pryor. The former Alabama attorney general is the last of three judges (Priscilla Owen was the first) explicitly assured floor votes as part of the "Gang of 14" deal. Just after confirming Brown yesterday, the Senate voted 67-32 to cut off debate on Pryor's nomination and move it toward a floor vote, which will likely come today.

So you don't have to read it in the New York Times after the debate is over, here's the word on Pryor from a recent piece in Salon: "He once called Roe v. Wade 'the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history'; in 2002 he argued in the Supreme Court, on behalf of Alabama and four other states, for states' execution of mentally retarded inmates; he termed the Voting Rights Act 'an affront to federalism and an expensive burden that has far outlived its usefulness'; and he affirmed in 2003 that extending the civil rights of same-sex couples would logically extend to activities like necrophilia and bestiality."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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