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Skewed Picture of America

June 30, 2003

By nominating William H. Pryor Jr. to the federal appeals court, George Bush has declared that the Alabama attorney general is not only qualified to sit on the nation's second-highest court but is the kind of judge most Americans want. Senators should reject this implausible assessment.

Even though the Senate has already confirmed 132 judges, pushing court vacancies to a 13-year low, the White House still complains about delays. Go-along-to-get-along Republicans may want to approve Pryor rather than buck their president.

But the appointment of Pryor, 41, to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals would be an endorsement of an ominous view of American law. At this month's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, he defended -- even amplified on -- his disturbing views. His candor is refreshing but it leaves squirming senators no cover.

"Congress ... should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime," he has argued, a position at odds with Bush's education initiative and support for beefed-up law enforcement and tougher criminal penalties.

Pryor contends that the Constitution does not grant the federal government power to protect the environment. He regards Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision upholding the legal right to an abortion, as "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history" and hopes that the landmark ruling will be overturned.

He would urge repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requirement that the federal government review state and local changes to voting procedures that may affect minorities. It's "an affront to federalism and an expensive burden," Pryor believes.

Before the Supreme Court last week struck down Texas' anti-sodomy statute, he argued for upholding that law and another like it in Alabama. If the Constitution protects the choice of a sexual partner, he contends, it also permits "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality ... and even incest and pedophilia." He also believes that the 1st Amendment's establishment clause should permit a two-ton granite representation of the Ten Commandments to sit in an Alabama courthouse.

These views and Pryor's lack of judicial experience caused the American Bar Assn. to splinter over his fitness for the appeals seat.

With the Senate already having confirmed so many of Bush's picks for the federal bench, there's no argument for this unqualified nominee.

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