Saturday, June 11, 2005

Activists Priming for Supreme Court Battle

"Activists on the right and left are priming for a battle supreme. If President Bush nominates the first new Supreme Court justice in more than a decade, a fight is expected to break out within hours of an announcement.

"Overnight, the Internet will buzz with e-mails, pro and con. Radio and television talk show hosts will jawbone about the testy Senate confirmation battle that's anticipated. Television ads will air for and against Bush's pick. Grass-roots groups will cheer or boo the nominee—with shouting perhaps the loudest in states with senators up for re-election next year.

"A vacancy could occur later this month when the court's term closes." ...

"'The American people ought to prepare themselves to participate in one of the most extensive debates and conversations that's been had in more than a decade about the Supreme Court,' said Nan Aron, director of the liberal Alliance for Justice, one of two organizations steering a coalition of groups on the left.

"In the conservative corner is the Committee for Justice. Director Sean Rushton says his group is the "air traffic controller" of the right-of-center campaign to seat a conservative judge in the mode of justices Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia. He said many groups on the right say that if Rehnquist is going to step down, they hope Congress could finish the confirmation process before the August recess."

"The group holds weekly conference calls with conservative groups, raises money and keeps in touch with powerful players in Washington with a role in the Supreme Court nomination process. Committee for Justice is steered by C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel to former President George H.W. Bush who helped Thomas through a contentious confirmation amid allegations of sexual harassment.

"Gray also is on the board of Progress for America, a group that spent heavily to oppose Sen. John Kerry in last year's election and spent more than $3 million to help Senate Republicans prevent filibusters on judicial nominations."

"In the ring on the right are: Edwin Meese, former attorney general for President Reagan; and Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, which has assembled a list of conservative lawyers and law professors willing to weigh in when the battle begins.

"Helping rally the religious right is Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit public interest legal group founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

"The newly formed Judicial Confirmation Network distributes information through other conservative groups, including Focus on the Family, Americans for Tax Reform, Family Research Council and the Americans for Limited Government. The network has operations, manned by paid staff, up and running in Virginia, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska and Colorado."

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