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May 19, 2005

The Owen nomination goes to the Senate floor

Owen.gifTexas Supreme Court justice and former Houston lawyer Priscilla Owen's nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will finally reach debate on the Senate floor today. This Washington Post article provides a good summary of how the Republicans intend to use the expected Democratic filibuster over Justice Owen's nomination to force a vote on the nomination with a simple majority instead of the three-fifths majority that is currently required under Senate rules.

Politics aside, it's unfortunate that Justice Owen's nomination has become a political football in the Congressional battle over the President's proposed judicial selections. In reality, she is precisely the type of talent that our nation needs in the federal appellate courts. She was a law-review editor at Baylor Law School and the top graduate from that school at the ripe old age of 23. After posting the top score on the Texas bar exam, she entered private practice with Andrews & Kurth in Houston where she became a partner and developed an excellent reputation as a litigator in oil and gas law over a 17 year period. Since entering the judiciary, Justice Owen has served on the Texas Supreme Court for the past 10 years, where -- during her last election to that court -- she was supported by a larger percentage of Texans than any of her colleagues and enjoyed the endorsement of every major Texas newspaper. She has received the highest rating possible ? a unanimous "well qualified" ? from the American Bar Association, which is certainly no bastion of Republican Party politics. Thus, under normal circumstances, the Senate would confirm Justice Owen's nomination in a heartbeat and without reservation.

Alas, these are not normal times. Jack Balkin makes the political case against Justice Owen's nomination, but -- as has been far too often the case in recent years -- the Democrats are not picking their spots wisely. While the Democrats' argument has merit when applied to judicial nominees of dubious quality, it falls flat when used to oppose candidates of the quality of Priscilla Owens.

Posted by Tom at May 19, 2005 6:44 AM |


She's a super nice lady. Very sharp.

Posted by: TP at May 19, 2005 9:22 AM

would you say that the accusations that she is an activist and has a pattern of holding against consumers are without merit?

Posted by: Mark S. at May 19, 2005 9:24 AM

Mark, I have not researched her opinions on consumer issues, so I can't comment on whether there is a pattern of anti-consumer holdings. However, knowing Justice Owen, I suspect that any such holdings in that regard are more a reflection of anti-consumer legislation than judicial bias.

Posted by: Tom K. at May 19, 2005 9:33 AM

I'm against doing away with the filibuster...

Having said that, I tend to agree with the posting above - just because I don't agree with everything a judicial nominee seems to believe does not make her or him unfit to the point of using that filibuster.

By the way, just found your blog - great stuff.

Posted by: Blake at May 19, 2005 4:14 PM

Posted by: Mike Kirkendall at May 20, 2005 7:38 AM

Mike, for a bit more objective (and free) analysis of all this, see:


Posted by: Tom K at May 20, 2005 10:30 AM

Your claims that Owen ":-was supported by a larger percentage of Texans than any of her colleagues" is, while technically true, disingenuous since she ran against no competition. Also, the claim that she "enjoyed the endorsement of every major Texas newspaper" is a borderline lie, since no major Texas paper has endorsed her to the 5th cicuit. (

Posted by: TDB at May 20, 2005 9:31 PM

The fact that Owen was unopposed in her latest Supreme Court race does not make the fact that she won by a larger percentage then any of her colleagues misleading. Indeed, there were other unopposed Supreme Court candidates at the time, and the fact that Owen was unopposed is a reflection of the political market that she is a good judge.

As to your suggestion of my "borderline lie," there is nothing of the sort. I did not suggest that the newspapers were supporting Owen's nomination to the Fifth Circuit, only that they supported her most recent election to the Texas Supreme Court. But it does not reflect well on the newspapers' judgment that they would support Owen for the Texas Supreme Court, on one hand, and then not support her nomination to the Fifth Circuit after spurious attacks have been made on her.

Posted by: Tom K at May 21, 2005 4:29 AM

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