Colson, Limbaugh mischaracterized Democratic opposition to Pryor, Brown nominations

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

Prison evangelist and former Nixon special counsel Charles W. Colson and radio host Rush Limbaugh mischaracterized Democratic opposition to Bush judicial nominees William Pryor and Janice Rogers Brown. Referring to Pryor, Colson claimed that there isn't a "thing in his record you could object to" beyond his opposition to abortion rights. In fact, opponents of Pryor have cited his record as Alabama attorney general, as well as his conflicting statements over his role in establishing the Republican Attorneys General Association, as the basis of their objections. Referring to Brown, Limbaugh asserted that Democrats are "setting this up as though she's not qualified to be a judge anywhere." But it was not Senate Democrats who first questioned Brown's qualifications; she twice received an "Unqualified" rating from the California judicial evaluation committee and currently has the American Bar Association's (ABA) lowest "passing" rating.

On the April 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Colson claimed that Pryor has been "held up because he is a Roman Catholic who believes in his church's teachings about [being] pro-life. ... There wasn't another thing in his record you could object to."

But a report by the progressive judicial watchdog group Alliance for Justice has noted other controversial elements of Pryor's record. Pryor co-founded and led the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), and made seemingly conflicting statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in the group. The report also noted that Pryor was the only attorney general to file an amicus brief in support of then-Governor Bush's position in Bush v. Gore, in which he argued for a ruling in Bush's favor. He also filed amicus briefs seeking to strike down portions of many landmark laws, including the Violence Against Women Act, the Clean Water Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Endangered Species Act.

On the April 25 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh declared: "Judge Janice Rogers Brown is a fine woman. I mean, they [Democrats] may disagree with her, but they're setting this up as though she's not qualified to be a judge anywhere."

But Senate Democrats were not the first to question Brown's qualifications. She twice received an "Unqualified" rating from the California judicial evaluation committee, which wrote that she was "prone to inserting conservative personal views into her appellate opinions," according to an April 26, 1996, Los Angeles Times report. Limbaugh mentioned a People for the American Way (PFAW) report noting the committee's 1996 evaluation of Brown, but attempted to dismiss it by labeling either PFAW or the committee -- it's not clear which -- "a bunch of libs [liberals]":

LIMBAUGH: I'm reading to you from People for the American Way on August 28th, 2003. "The report released today, 'Loose Cannon,' notes that when Brown was nominated to the state supreme court in 1996, she was found unqualified by the state bar evaluation committee," and that's a bunch of libs.

Brown's current ABA rating is Qm/NQmin (meaning a majority consider her "Qualified" and a minority consider her "Not Qualified"), which is the ABA's lowest "passing" rating.

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