In a teleconference today, representatives of environmental, tribal, and civil rights spelled out why the U.S. Senate should block the appointment of nominee William G. Myers III to a lifetime seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“William Myers has an extreme record on the environment, the rights of Indian tribes, and civil rights. In fact, his nomination threatens nearly every one of our fundamental protections under the law,” said Earthjustice Executive Director Buck Parker. “President Bush is attempting to seed the courts with industry lobbyists, just as he has installed industry lobbyists into our federal agencies. But as federal judges, these industry cronies can harm our rights and protections for decades to come.”
The Ninth Circuit oversees nine states and two territories, home to more than 55 million people and containing more than 485 million acres of federal lands. The court is a crucial proving ground for the rules governing the protection and management of our public lands.
“The Bush administration is pushing lifetime appointments for judges who are out of step with most Americans, threatening to unravel environmental protections. William Myers is the most extreme example,” said David Bookbinder, Sierra Club’s Washington Legal Director. “Myers’ anti-environmental views and avowed hostility to environmental protections make him unfit to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, a court that handles an exceptionally large number of environmental cases.”
Sixty-four groups, including a record number of national environmental groups, representing a broad range of public interests, have signed a letter of formal opposition to Myers’ nomination to the Ninth Circuit. (For a copy of the letter, visit JudgingTheEnvironment.org, or call 202-667-4500.) Among the concerns cited by the groups are the following:
- Before he joined the Interior Department, Myers was an activist lawyer and lobbyist for the grazing and mining industries; he unsuccessfully argued in Supreme Court briefs that Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act safeguards were unconstitutional;
- As Interior solicitor, Myers wrote a legal opinion that reversed the previous solicitor’s opinion and cleared the way for a previously rejected cyanide heap-leach gold mine in California that would pollute the environment and destroy the Quechan Indian tribe’s sacred sites; he ignored Interior’s trust responsibility to tribes and legal requirements by failing to even consult with the tribe. In November 2003, a federal judge held that Myers’ legal opinion badly misinterpreted the law;
- Myers has argued that ranchers’ property rights are “as fundamental” as free speech. If accepted, this would invalidate a vast range of laws that limit use of property, from local zoning to federal protections for the environment, workers, people with disabilities, and civil rights.
The National Congress of American Indians, which represents 250 tribal governments, unanimously adopted a resolution in November 2003 opposing Myers’ nomination because of his disregard for federal law affecting Native American sacred sites on federal lands.
“As solicitor of the Interior Department, Myers engineered a major rollback of protections for sacred Native [American] sites on public lands,” said Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “These lands are central to the free exercise of religion for many Native American people. I dread to think what damage Myers could do as a judge for the appeals court that oversees nine Western states containing scores of Native reservations.”
“We are very troubled by many aspects of Mr. Myers’ record including his disregard and disrespect for the concerns of the Native American community and his troubling legal philosophy that would elevate property rights to a level of constitutional scrutiny reserved for fundamental rights, such as the right to free speech and equal protection,” said Nancy Zirkin, deputy director for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. “We are also concerned with his limited view of Congress’s commerce power, and the implications that flow from that view as it impacts civil rights.”
“William Myers has demonstrated that he regards public office as an opportunity to advance the interests of the industries for which he advocated in the private sector, to the detriment of our country’s precious land and natural resources,” said Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron. “Now he asks the Senate to disregard his prior record, trust him when he promises to set aside his extremist views, and grant him a lifetime appointment to a court one level below the Supreme Court. We respectfully urge the Senate not to take the bait.”
“William Myers has embraced a dangerous neo-federalist ideology. He has shown his true colors through his decisions as Interior Department solicitor and his work as a private sector lobbyist and attorney,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way. “For the sake of the environment, for American Indians, and for the future of federal safeguards of the rights of ordinary Americans, the nomination of William Myers should be rejected.”
In addition, 15 women’s rights and pro-choice groups have sent a separate letter to the Senate expressing concerns regarding Myers’ views of the constitutional right to privacy.
Additional Information on William G. Myers
Carrie Boron, Alliance for Justice, 202-822-6070 x 338;
Cat Lazaroff, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500 x 213
Michelle Wolley, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights,
202- 263 2881
Jason McCarty, National Congress of American Indians,
David McIntosh, Natural Resource Defense Council,
Tarek Rizk, People for the American Way, 202-467-4999
Wendy Balazik, Sierra Club, 202-675-2383