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Pryor's Nomination Vote Delayed, So Act Now!

July 10th, 2003 | Paula Brantner

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee, poised to take action on the nomination of William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, chose to delay the vote on his nomination for one week. (See Birmingham News article.) Democratic members of the Committee viewed the delay, initiated by the Republican majority, as a sign that support for Pryor’s nomination may be fading; however, until a vote is taken, it should be assumed that Pryor’s nomination is alive and well. Your help is needed now to ensure that Pryor’s nomination dies in committee and never reaches the Senate floor.

Here is some information about Pryor’s record, in case you are not previously familiar with this most extreme judicial nominee:

William (Bill) Pryor, 41, has been nominated to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases appealed from Alabama, Florida and Georgia federal district courts. He currently serves as Alabama’s Attorney General, a position he has held since 1997, first by appointment, and then via statewide election in 1998 and 2002.

Pryor’s record demonstrates that he is an ultra-conservative activist whose record disqualifies him from a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary. He has consistently and aggressively fought for limits on important civil rights laws, and is extremely hostile towards the rights of women, gay men & lesbians, and other minority citizens. Pryor has advocated his extreme views not only in lawsuits in which the state of Alabama was a party, but also by filing briefs in cases in which Alabama was not involved and Pryor had no obligation to participate. Pryor is also a frequent public speaker whose speeches make clear that the ideological positions he has taken in these cases are his own.

On Wednesday, June 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Pryor’s nomination, where Pryor unapologetically acknowledged many of his prior controversial statements.

We urge you to oppose the nomination of William Pryor for the following reasons:

Pryor advocates for limits on the reach of important civil rights laws. He personally has been involved in several key Supreme Court cases that, by narrow 5-4 majorities, have restricted the ability of Congress to protect Americans’ rights against discrimination and injury based on disability, race, and age. Recently the Supreme Court rejected Pryor’s argument that the states should be immune from lawsuits for damages brought by state employees for violation of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Pryor has argued in briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court that Congress had exceeded its power by applying disability access laws to state governments. Furthermore, Alabama was the only state to file an amicus (friend of the court) brief urging the Supreme Court to deny sexual assault victims the ability to sue their attackers using the Violence Against Women Act. The attorneys general of 36 other states took the opposite position in the Supreme Court.

Pryor does not appear to accept the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution. He has, on several occasions, stated that he believes that individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, such as women’s rights, freedom of religion, reproductive rights, and the rights of gay men and lesbians, can be overruled by the vote of a majority of citizens. Pryor’s ideology would effectively create a balkanized America in which individual citizens may have fewer constitutional rights depending on where they live.

Pryor supports limiting the federal government’s ability to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Pryor has testified before Congress urging the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires covered jurisdictions to obtain “preclearance” for new voting practices and procedures from either the District Court for the District of Columbia or the United States Attorney General. He stated that it is “an affront to federalism and an expensive burden that has far outlived its usefulness.”

Pryor is vehemently and stridently opposed to equal rights for gays and lesbians. In an amicus brief filed before the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, Pryor equates private sexual conduct between same-sex consenting couples with “activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia.” Further, Pryor defends sodomy laws, such as the Texas law attacked in Lawrence, because, even if not enforced, such laws instruct that homosexuality is objectionable. (The Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence strongly rejects the arguments of Pryor and other like-minded supporters. Please note Attorney General Pryor’s most-restrained statement on the Lawrence ruling–one questions whether Pryor would have shown nearly as much restraint were it not for his pending nomination!)

As Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor continues to abuse his position by utilizing state resources to directly and indirectly attack gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered (GLBT) Americans in his state and across the country. He links the state attorney general’s website only to vehemently anti-gay and right wing organizations, including the Family Research Council and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which regularly bring lawsuit opposing GLBT rights. In contrast, his website does not make any links to groups that support GLBT civil rights. (See the web site’s “Other Links – Public Policy on the Web” section for the list of right wing organizations included there.)

Pryor is often contemptuous of opposing viewpoints, and frequently uses ridicule in his speeches, briefs and arguments against rights and freedoms under debate. His extreme positions on so many critical aspects of Americans’ individual rights seriously place in doubt his ability to maintain an open mind about these matters were he to be confirmed as a federal judge.

Your voice is needed to help insure that your Senators look closely at William Pryor’s anti-civil rights record. A vote on Pryor’s nomination is expected to take place the week of July 14th, so please act now by responding to WF’s action alert!

Take Action Now: Demand Fair Judges: Stop Bill Pryor

Other Information About Pryor:

Organizational Statements/Reports:

National Employment Lawyers Association

Alliance for Justice

Human Rights Campaign

People for the American Way

Editorials Opposing or Urging Caution on Pryor’s Nomination:

Baltimore Sun

Honolulu Advertiser

Los Angeles Times

New York Times (excerpt only)

San Francisco Chronicle

Washington Post

Recent News Articles

Judiciary committee delays vote on Pryor nomination (7/10/03)

Specter key to committee vote on Alabama AG’s nomination to court (7/10/03)

Nominee for U.S. appeals court is deeply religious, anti-abortion, pro state’s rights (7/08/03)

Pryor: Ruling makes Alabama law ‘unenforceable’ (6/27/03)

Pryor nomination draws Congressional heat (6/26/03)

Pryor says his beliefs won’t interfere with law (6/12/03)

NOW with Bill Moyers: A Justice for All? William Pryor’s Record: a compilation of Bill Pryor’s public statements, amicus briefs, and other representations of his position on various legal and political issues.

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