Miguel Estrada Withdraws from D.C. Circuit Court Nomination
Move seen as a victory for environmental protections
September 4, 2003
Contact:Cat Lazaroff, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500, ext. 213
“Miguel Estrada's withdrawal of his nomination to a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court that decides the fate of national clean air and clean water safeguards is a major victory for the environment,” said Glenn Sugameli, Senior Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice.
Earthjustice and other national environmental groups urged the Senate to oppose Estrada's confirmation, and 16 Senators cited the environment as a reason to block the nomination (additional information on environmental opposition and excerpts from Senators’ floor speeches addressing environmental issues regarding Estrada).
The D.C. Circuit is the most crucial appeals court for environmental protections, hearing the vast majority of cases challenging national environmental rulings and safeguards issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department, and other federal agencies. Its decisions are usually final, as the Supreme Court—the only court with higher authority—seldom reviews them.
Estrada’s nomination was brought to the Senate floor for the first time in March, where it was defeated in the first of seven attempts to muster the 60 votes needed to force a vote on his nomination. Many of the Senators who spoke in opposition to Estrada’s nomination raised concerns about legal challenges to some of the nation’s most important environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act
Senators also voiced concerns about the sparse public records of Estrada’s views on a variety of legal issues, ranging from public health to environmental safeguards to civil rights issues. In hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Estrada repeatedly refused to answer Senators’ questions regarding his views on previous court decisions.
“The American people want and deserve fair and balanced judges who will uphold reasonable environmental laws that protect our communities from air and water pollution and safeguard our natural resources for future generations. The public should not be expected to blindly trust a nominee when the administration and the nominee combine to stonewall legitimate requests for information and answers to key questions that Senators need to make an informed decision about the nominee’s qualifications,” noted Sugameli.
“The Senators who refused to rubber-stamp Estrada’s nomination should be commended for exercising their constitutional advise-and-consent right—and responsibility—to fairly review nominees to lifetime federal judgeships,” Sugameli said. “President Bush should start consulting with the Senate to identify mainstream judicial nominees and abandon his misguided effort to pack our courts with extremist judges.”