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Owen a questionable choice for judge

Lorenz T. "Marty" Martensen

Dear Editor,

Presidents historically have nominated people for important positions on the Federal Court of Appeals and no one disputes the right of George W. Bush to do exactly that.

The nomination of Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit raises some serious questions.

One complaint comes from the President’s own White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales. Mr. Gonzales, who served with Justice Owen on the Texas Supreme Court, once lambasted her dissent in an abortion case for engaging in “unconscionable … judicial activism.” Mr. Gonzales says today that he nonetheless supports the elevation of Justice Owen. To me that’s maintaining one’s job security or demonstrating “loyalty.”

Justice Owen’s record on the Texas Supreme Court was one of its most conservative member. For example, in abortion cases, Justice Owen has been resourceful about finding reasons that, despite United States Supreme Court holdings and Texas case law, women should be denied the right to choose.

As Mr. Gonzales has identified, Justice Owen has a willingness to ignore the text and intent of laws that stand in her way. In an important age discrimination case, Justice Owen dissented to argue that the plaintiff should have to meet a higher standard than Texas law requires.

Justice Owen’s judicial ethics have come into question. She has raised large amounts of campaign contributions from corporations and law firms and then declined to recuse herself when these contributors have had cases before her. And as a judicial candidate, she publicly endorses a pro-business political action committee that was raising money to influence the rulings of the Texas Supreme Court.

Justice Owen is a choice that makes sense for Justice Department ideologues that want to turn the courts into champions of big business, insurance companies and the religious right.

When a candidate, the President promised to represent all the people and to respect the laws of the United States. I’m sure he meant that. Obviously, Justice Priscilla Owen does not.

Lorenz T. “Marty” Martensen

Glenwood Springs


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