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Court-Nominee Filibusters

November 16, 2002

Re "No to a Far-Right Court: Use Filibusters," by Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk, Commentary, Nov. 11:

It is remarkable that less than a week after voters nationwide repudiated the Democrats' lack of constructive political engagement and affirmed their support for President Bush, Chemerinsky and Fisk called for the Democratic Party to use filibusters to attack judicial nominees whom they interchangeably characterize as "far right" or "conservative." As "ample precedent" for this tactic, they offer all of two examples of Republican filibusters during the last 34 years.

As an attorney, I am constantly reminded of the consequences of vacant judicial posts. The inability of some of Bush's nominees to get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee has been a disgrace. That Chemerinsky and Fisk would now encourage Democrats to renew that confrontational approach in Senate filibusters is utterly irresponsible. It will also further marginalize the Democratic Party.

Arthur I. Willner



Chemerinsky and Fisk's commentary might have mentioned that for more than 50 years the country has expected and accepted that the Constitution will be rewritten by "test cases" instead of constitutional amendments.

A judicial nominee's views on abortion wouldn't matter if the Constitution plainly stated what Roe vs. Wade established, that a woman has a right to privacy in the first trimester of her pregnancy. Similarly, civil rights and women's rights would not depend on a favorable interpretation of the 14th Amendment if the Constitution plainly prohibited racial and gender discrimination.

The country has ceded vital policymaking powers to the judicial branch -- the unaccountable branch of government that the founders excluded from policymaking.

The Senate confirmation hearings are now the last opportunity for the people of the United States, through their elected representatives, to have any say at all in the making of law and policy on issues that deeply concern them.

Susan Shelley

Sherman Oaks


Chemerinsky and Fisk's commentary stating that the Democrats must filibuster Bush's judicial nominees misses the mark in one important way. The American people voted for a right-wing House, a right-wing Senate and a right-wing president. Why should the Democrats rescue the American people because they decided to vote this way?

The media have repeated consistent warnings since the George H.W. Bush administration about the threatening specter of right-wing judges. No one listened. The American people should suffer the consequences of electing a president and a Congress with stunted views of individual rights and civil liberties.

Throughout history, our liberal courts have desegregated schools, enhanced our rights to privacy (which we all cherish), enforced the 1st Amendment by eliminating forced prayer in public schools and demanded that the states pass laws that comport with constitutional minimums.

We are too comfortable. We take our rights for granted. Perhaps if we experience the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the outlawing of the use of contraceptives, the banning of "immoral" books and movies and the bringing back of forced school prayer, then the American people will be outraged enough to never vote again for the fringe right wing of the Republican Party.

Give the people what they voted for and let them face the consequences of that vote.

Jeffrey L. Hoffer

Simi Valley


If there was ever a time to utilize the senatorial filibuster on judicial appointments, the next session of Congress is that time. The current unelected president should not mistake the vote on Nov. 5 as giving him carte blanche to swing the federal courts to the far right. To the contrary, that vote was to support U.S. foreign policy, period.

It is time that the Democratic Party discovers its manhood and delivers that message to George W. Bush and the Republicans, come 2003!

Bob Teigan

Simi Valley


Chemerinsky and Fisk state, "If outspoken liberals were unacceptable judicial nominees during the Clinton administration, then extreme conservatives are equally unsuitable now."

Let's see if I've got it right. Their radicals are "outspoken," while the other guys' radicals are "extreme." Perhaps the reason Chemerinsky was not nominated for that U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judgeship was not the reason stated in the column but his lack of fairness and intellectual integrity.

Elliott S. Mitchell

Costa Mesa

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