Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
NOW Home Page
Home
Politics & Economy
Science & Health
Arts & Culture
Society & Community
Discussion
TV Schedule
Newsletter
For Educators
Archive
Topic Index
Search:
Scales of Justice
5.20.05
Politics and Economy:
Judgment Day
More on This Story:
Janice Rogers Brown's Record

California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown was first nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in July 2003. The D.C. Circuit is thought of as "second only to the Supreme Court in influence over law and policy in this country," according to the Alliance for Justice. "Unlike other regional courts of appeals, Congress has conferred on the court concurrent or exclusive jurisdiction over the interpretation of many federal statutes and over the validity of regulations issued by executive agencies. As a result, D.C. Circuit not only hears appeals of cases involving federal rights of D.C. residents, but establishes precedent in areas such as labor and workers' safety laws and environmental protections that affect all Americans in very significant ways."

There is no debating that the latest round of confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee have brought the partisan battle over judges to a new level — with the very real possibility of the end of the filibuster tactic of blocking nominees movement forward. Recently President Bush went around the the Senate approval process and appointed controversial nominee William H. Pryor to an interim place on the bench. But this time the administration and some GOP senators appear prepared to use the "nuclear option" to clear the path for Brown and Priscilla Owen.

Called by THE WASHINGTON POST "one of the most unapologetically ideological nominees of either party in many years," Brown has gained the clear support of many conservatives, while some Democrats have pointed to her "aggressive judicial activism" as proof that she is "unfit to serve on the appeals court."

You be the judge. Follow links below to read about Brown's previous decisions and make up your own mind on the issue. Read speeches by Janice Rogers Brown. Plus, review the arguments of the groups who support Brown's nomination, and those who oppose it. To learn more about the national legal system and the judicial nomination process visit NOW's Federal Court System page.



JANICE ROGERS BROWN

Janice Rogers Brown's biography on the California Courts Web site provides background on Brown's professional career. The ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION reports on Brown's recollection of her childhood and the "lessons she learned as a sharecropper's daughter in the segregated South." Although her critics fear that her convictions will compromise her ability to judge fairly, Brown explained in her hearing that her personal philosophy would not and had not affected her rulings: "I do recognize the difference in the role between speaking and being a judge." Go directly to the case files and find out what Justice Brown has to say with the following links.

FAMILY RIGHTS AND REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM

In Brown's only opinion dealing with abortion, she argued that the court majority's decision ruling unconstitutional a parental consent law for minors seeking abortions would "dismiss societal values" and would allow courts to "become final arbiters of traditional morality."

In another family values case, she dissented from a ruling upholding the validity of second-parent adoptions in the case of a same-sex couple. Read about the cases below.


CORPORATE LIABILITY AND WORKERS' RIGHTS

According to the People for the American Way, Brown "has dissented from several rulings protecting the rights of investors and other consumers, arguing that previous precedents should be abandoned."


CIVIL RIGHTS AND DISCRIMINATION

People for the American Way complain that Justice Brown's opinions on civil rights law "reveal significant skepticism about the existence and impact of discrimination." Read some of Justice Brown's opinions from these cases.


AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

In the case Hi-Voltage Wire Works v. City of San Jose, Justice Brown wrote the majority opinion upholding California's Proposition 209, an initiative prohibiting government entities from any use of gender or racial preferences.


SUPPORTERS OF BROWN'S NOMINATION

  • Senator Orrin Hatch
    "How anyone would not think you are a superior nominee is beyond me. I'm going to do all that I can to see that you are confirmed."

  • NewsMax.com
    "Why attack Brown? It's rather simple and rather sad: Janice Rogers Brown is a black woman who happens to think for herself and has rejected knee-jerk obeisance to left-wing orthodoxy."

  • Project 21
    "Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21... demand that the Brown confirmation process be handled in a quick and timely manner, devoid of scare tactics and procedural skullduggery."

  • Bi-Partisan Group of 15 California Law Professors (as cited by Idaho GOP)
    "We know Justice Brown to be a person of high intelligence, unquestioned integrity, and even-handedness. Since we are of differing political beliefs and perspectives, Democratic, Republican and Independent, we wish especially to emphasize what we believe is Justice Brown's strongest credential for appointment to this important seat on the D.C. Circuit: her open-minded and thorough appraisal of legal argumentation — even when her personal views may conflict with those arguments."

  • Bi-Partisan Group of 12 of Justice Brown's Current and Former Judicial Colleagues (as cited by Idaho GOP)
    "Much has been written about Justice Brown's humble beginnings, and the story of her rise to the California Supreme Court is truly compelling. But that alone would not be enough to gain our endorsement for a seat on the federal bench. We believe that Justice Brown is qualified because she is a superb judge. We who have worked with her on a daily basis know her to be extremely intelligent, keenly analytical, and very hard working. We know that she is a jurist who applies the law without favor and without bias, and with an even hand."

  • Family Research Council
    "This is the new McCarthyism. Democrats have turned the Judiciary Committee into the Senate Un-American Activities Committee, slamming Bush's judicial picks with the slander-filled talking points of the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual lobby. Critiquing a nominee's record is one thing; bringing them to tears with inflammatory cartoons and questions laced with lies is a whole different story."


OPPONENTS OF BROWN'S NOMINATION

  • Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)
    "As long as the administration continues to do this [nominate "conservative ideologues"], we will continue to block judges who are outside the mainstream." and "I am disappointed to be here on this nomination. It's almost like this administration is looking for someone who will most antagonize us."

  • Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
    "Unfortunately, the White House's recent nominees to the D.C. Circuit appear to continue a disturbing pattern of nominating judges who are extreme. Hopefully today the president will get the message that his current approach to nominations is not working."

  • Save Our Courts
    "Brown has often been the lone justice to dissent on the California Supreme Court, illustrating that her judicial philosophy is outside the mainstream. Not only does she show an inability to dispassionately review cases, her opinions are based on extremist ideology that ignores judicial precedent, including that set by the U.S. Supreme Court."

  • Americans United for Separation of Church and State
    Reverend Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director: "It is unfathomable to me that in 2003 anyone would seriously argue that Alabama, for example, could declare an official state religion. Yet that is the practical effect of Brown's views. That alone should disqualify her from the federal bench."

  • Congressional Black Caucus
    "Justice Brown's disdain for legal precedent could not be clearer. In many of her decisions, Justice Brown appears to be a jurist on a right-wing mission.... Justice Brown's record proves that she is unable or unwilling to divorce her personal views from her responsibility to fairly interpret the law and the Constitution. She should not be elevated to a federal court where she could further undermine the rule of law and the attendant legal protections."

  • NARAL Pro-Choice America
    "Janice Rogers Brown demonstrated her opposition to a woman's right to privacy when she wrote a caustic dissent to a California Supreme Court's ruling that a California parental consent law with respect to abortion violated the state constitution's right to privacy."



Sources: THE WASHINGTON POST; THE NATIONAL REVIEW; Law.com; Alliance for Justice

Related Stories:

about feedback pledge © Public Affairs Television. All rights reserved.
go to the full archive