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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Press Release

Senate Committee to Vote on Two More Controversial Judicial Nominees

Victor Wolski, Priscilla Owen Slated for Vote Tomorrow (Thursday, March 27)

March 26, 2003

Contact:Jim Cox, 202-667-4500 x. 202
Glenn Sugameli, 202-667-4500 x. 221

Washington, DC-- The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow (Thursday, March 27th) on two controversial judicial nominees. Earthjustice and other environmental groups have opposed these nominees, both of whom have radical views favoring expanding the property rights of big landowners at the expense of local clean water safeguards.

Victor Wolski is a self-described libertarian ideologue on the very property rights issues that he would decide if he is confirmed to the Court of Federal Claims. Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen has been renominated to the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals after being rejected last year for her record of extreme rulings, including favoring big landowner special interests over clean water, public health, and ordinary citizens. While the Senate has exercised its constitutional advise and consent role to confirm over 100 of the adminstration's lifetime judicial nominees, environmental groups have focused formal expressions of concern and opposition on Mr. Wolski, Justice Owen, and a few others, who have the most egregious records.

Earthjustice and other national environmental groups have formally opposed Mr. Wolski’s nomination to the Court of Federal Claims, which decides whether companies and developers must be paid to comply with federal safety, health, and environmental safeguards. Mr. Wolski has spent most of his legal career with the industry-funded Pacific Legal Foundation, where he specialized in bringing property rights challenges to environmental and land use protections. He told the National Journal in 1999 that “every single job I’ve taken since college has been ideologically oriented, trying to further my principles,” which he describes as a “libertarian” view on government power and “property rights.” Environmental groups have also raised serious questions of whether additional judges are needed on this court, an issue that was a focus of Senator Leahy’s statement, and today’s Washington Post editorial entitled “Court of Extravagance.”

Justice Owen's nomination was defeated by the Judiciary Committee last September, but she was renominated this year. In rejecting her nomination, several Senators expressed alarm at her extreme views favoring developers over clean water. National environmental groups have expressed formal opposition based on her testimony, and on opinions that she authored, including her position that property rights should exempt big landowners from local clean water safeguards, and that the public may be denied information about their public health if providing that information puts a burden on the relevant agency.

“Anyone who cares about the environment and the future of our courts should have serious concerns about these back-to-back votes on two judicial nominees who do not seem to understand that there is no right to pollute,” said Jim Cox , Earthjustice’s Judicial Research Counsel.

For commentary following the votes, contact Jim Cox: 202.667.4500, x. 202