Here is a response from the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to President Bush’s speech today on judges.
The balance on our nation’s federal courts is precarious, with seven out of the nine Supreme Court Justices and 60 percent of all Federal judges appointed by Republican Presidents. The impact of President Bush’s appointments is being harshly felt by ordinary Americans who are being denied their day in court and denied the protection that federal and state laws designed to help them were intended to provide. We cannot afford more of the same if Americans’ rights and liberties are to be preserved. Just as the Bush administration placed partisan politics ahead of sound law enforcement at the Department of Justice, it has elevated its partisan political agenda over the rule of law in its appointments to our federal courts.
During the Bush-Cheney administration, the Supreme Court has been siding with big corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, injured Americans and investors. Recent decisions by the Supreme Court, like Ledbetter, Exxon, and Riegel have left countless Americans without redress for corporate misconduct. Justices Scalia and Thomas, along with the Bush appointees, have been on the wrong side of these decisions. Their shielding of big business from accountability has contributed to the corruption and greed that is requiring massive taxpayer investments to shore up the shaky credit markets and financial institutions.
Hardworking Americans are no longer able to obtain justice in our courts when decisions like that in the Ledbetter case leave them without effective recourse. Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at Goodyear Tire, was paid significantly less than her male counterparts for two decades. Her jury verdict was thrown out when the Supreme Court agreed with the Bush administration to bar her claim from being considered. The result is that working women are denied equal pay for equal work so long as their employee can hide the wrongdoing for a few months. Older workers can be discriminated against with impunity. And when Congress tried to reinstate the anti-discrimination laws as intended, Senate Republicans filibustered.
In so many other recent decisions in the federal courts, the Bush administration and the judges it has appointed have been wrong. They are quick to grant enormous power to the President and intent on rolling back personal freedoms and rights. Their wrong decisions have undercut voting rights, human rights, workers’ rights, civil rights and the environment. I have urged this President, and will urge the next President, to nominate men and women to the federal bench who reflect the diversity of America. Diversity on the bench helps ensure that the words ‘equal justice under law,’ inscribed in Vermont marble over the entrance to the Supreme Court, is a reality and that justice is rendered fairly and impartially. We must work to restore balance to the federal courts and ensure that the Federal judiciary is once again removed from politics and independent, so that our courts are able to provide justice to all Americans.