Statement of Glenn Sugameli, Senior Legislative Counsel for Earthjustice

Response to Senate Committee's Rejection of Lifetime Federal Appeals Court Nominee Priscilla Owen

“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s review of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen’s record led them to conclude that she would not be an appropriate candidate for a lifetime federal appeals court judgeship. Earthjustice previously expressed concerns with the nomination, largely because of Justice Owen’s rulings that show an indefensible bias for special interests at the expense of public health, ordinary citizens, and the environment.

“Justice Owen wrote a number of extreme opinions while serving on the Texas Supreme Court that demonstrated an unjustifiable disregard for the well-being of people and the environment. Indeed, in one case, the majority of the court, including Justice Alberto Gonzales (currently White House counsel) stated, ‘Most of Justice Owen’s dissent is nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric, and thus merits no response.’ Justice Owen’s opinions would elevate the rights of polluters over the rights of neighbors and the public, restrict the public’s access to public information, and limit common law remedies for injured consumers.

“The Senate has confirmed more than 70 judicial nominees, while refusing to confirm Judge Pickering and Justice Owen, two Fifth Circuit nominees who raised very serious environmental concerns. We urge the President and the Senate to work together to select truly mainstream lifetime nominees to the Fifth Circuit and other courts that decide the fate of fundamental environmental and other safeguards.

“Of particular concern is the pending nomination of Lawrence Block to the Court of Federal Claims, which decides whether companies and developers must be paid to comply with federal environmental and other laws. Mr. Block testified that he ‘had the honor of working on’ bills regarding takings of property; these extreme bills would have redefined takings in a manner that the Supreme Court had unanimously rejected, and that would have threatened a wide range of safety, health, and environmental protections. We urge the Senate to continue to exercise independent judgment when reviewing Mr. Block and President Bush’s other nominees for lifetime judgeships.”

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