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Senate ends 2-year filibuster of judicial nominee

The Senate on Tuesday ended a two-year filibuster of California judge Janice Rogers Brown, clearing for final vote her nomination to the U.S. Appeals Court .
/ Source: The Associated Press

The GOP-controlled Senate on Tuesday ended a nearly two-year Democratic filibuster of California judge Janice Rogers Brown, putting her on track to become the second black woman on what many people consider to be the nation’s second highest court.

The 65-32 vote virtually assures the conservative jurist and Alabama native’s confirmation Wednesday evening to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, part of a historic deal to avert a partisan showdown over judicial filibusters.

It takes 60 votes to bypass a filibuster. In November 2003, Brown’s Republican supporters were able to get only 53 votes for the California Supreme Court justice.

Brown was one of three benefactors of a deal by centrist senators that forced a compromise between Republicans and Democrats battling over President Bush’s judicial nominees.

Stepping stone court
Republicans have argued that Brown was worthy of confirmation to a court viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court. The Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decides important government cases involving separation of powers and the authority of federal agencies.

“Her presence on the federal bench will advance the cause of conservative judicial philosophy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the Senate centrists who brokered the deal that will get Brown confirmed. “She will be an ideal conservative judge who follows the law and does not legislate from the bench. I’m very disappointed she has been treated so poorly for nearly two years, but I’m also glad to know that tomorrow she will finally get the vote she has long deserved.”

Democrats have been blocking Brown because they see 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.

Ideological divide
“Janice Rogers Brown is one of President Bush’s most ideological and extreme judicial nominees,” said Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. Added Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, “Judge Brown was the least worthy pick this president has made for the appellate court, and that’s based on her record.”

Last month, Senate centrists agreed to confirm Brown and two other controversial nominees — William Pryor of Alabama and Priscilla Owen of Texas — to avoid a fight over the judicial filibuster.

Seven Democrats and seven Republicans signed a pact pledging not to filibuster judicial nominees except in “extraordinary” circumstances. At the same time, they agreed to oppose attempts by GOP leaders to change filibuster procedures.

Nominees stacked up for confirmation
Because of that deal, as many as four of Bush’s nominees to federal appeals courts could be confirmed before the end of the week — Pryor, the former Alabama attorney general nominated to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta; Michigan nominees David McKeague and Richard Griffin, nominated to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati; and Brown.

“It will set the stage for up-or-down votes for future judges,” Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said.

The confirmation of Pryor will come up after Brown’s approval process is completed, Frist said.

Owen, a longtime member of the Texas Supreme Court, was sworn in Monday as a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. She was first nominated by Bush to the federal appeals court in May 2001. The Senate confirmed her nomination last month.