by Steven Ertelt
July 1, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — With his first opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice, President Bush is reportedly considering one of a handful of pro-life judges. There is little doubt that one legacy President Bush will have is how he shaped the views of the nation’s top judicial panel.
A survey of the most often discussed possibilities for Supreme Court appointments indicates many are either pro-life or have issued decisions on legislation favorable to the pro-life community.
Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
As a judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Alito upheld a Pennsylvania pro-life law that the Supreme Court overturned in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He wrote an opinion in that case arguing for a standard that would permit virtually any restriction on abortion. Alito favors overturning Roe and allowing states to decide whether to make abortion illegal. From New Jersey, Alito is known in legal circles as "Scalia lite" in reference to pro-life Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Emilio Garza is a federal appeals court judge on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Garza’s opposition to abortion is beyond question. He wrote two separate opinions explicitly criticizing Roe v. Wade and suggesting it be overturned.
Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is frequently mentioned as a contender for the high court. She was considered for the Supreme Court seat that eventually went to Clarence Thomas.
When the 5th Circuit denied a request last October by Norma McCorvey to approve her motion to overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling, Judge Jones issued an opinion blasting the Supreme Court’s opinion in Roe and saying it needs to be re-examined.
She called Roe an "exercise of raw judicial power," and cited evidence McCorvey presented showing abortions hurt women. Jones, a Reagan nominee, wrote that the "[Supreme] Court’s rulings have rendered basic abortion policy beyond the power of our legislative bodies."
Judge Michael Luttig is a member of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Luttig was a clerk for pro-life Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia when Scalia was an appeals-court judge. Luttig worked for the first Bush administration and helped the former president win the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the nation’s high court.
Luttig is widely considered one of Bush’s top judicial prospects, especially given his young age, 50, and his ability to shape the direction of the court for years to come. He is considered the most conservative judge on one of the most conservative appeals courts in the nation.
He is regarded as a threat by abortion advocacy groups because he opposes abortion.
In 1998, Luttig issued an emergency stay of a lower-court order that blocked a new Virginia law banning partial-birth abortions. Eventually, Luttig and the 4th Circuit allowed the pro-life law to remain in place, but were overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court and the state’s law was struck down.
Judge Michael McConnell sits on the 10th Circuit and has often been touted as a possible Supreme Court nominee. Before becoming a judge in 2002, he was a leading pro-life advocate and scholar who once described the Roe v. Wade case as a judicial "embarassment."
Judge John Roberts, a former clerk of pro-life Chief Justice William Rehnquist, won confirmation in June 2003 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, a traditional steppingstone to the Supreme Court. He is a former legal counsel to President Reagan.
As Principal Deputy Solicitor General during the first Bush administration, Roberts played an active role in efforts to limit abortion. Roberts argued in a brief before the U.S. Supreme Court that “[w]e continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. [T]he Court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion … finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution."
Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, also a member of the Richmond, Virginia-based federal appeals court, is considered a top prospect for the first Supreme Court seat that opens up.
Wilkinson opposes abortion and is considered someone who may be palatable to Democrats in the Senate because of his more moderate views on other political issues, such as environmental policy. He voted to uphold a state law allowing parents to know when their teenage daughters were considering an abortion.
Bush has said he wants to appoint a Hispanic the the Supreme Court, making the nominee the first Latino to do so. That may give the edge to someone like Alito or Garza or possibly Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
However, with the court’s first woman appointee stepping down, Bush may feel he should appoint a woman to replace her.