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Guest Contributor

A Judicial Candidate Feminists Should Support

California's Janice Brown is worth considering for the U.S. Supreme Court
[Tammy Ku] 8/8/03

As rumors circulate about the retirement of at least one U.S. Supreme Court judge, many have begun to speculate about the choices for a successor. California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown is considered to be at the head of the list, as her views reflect both that of the Bush administration and recent Supreme Court decisions. Her personal story is one of struggle and accomplishment.

Janice Brown grew up as a sharecropper's daughter in Alabama during the 1950s. Inspired by her grandmother's stories about civil-rights attorney Fred Gray, who defended Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, she decided to become an attorney and attended law school at UCLA.

Before sitting on California's highest court, Brown worked as a state government lawyer for 12 years and then at a law firm run by Steve Merksamer, chief of staff for former Republican Governor George Deukmejian. She then became Republican Governor Pete Wilson's legal affairs secretary before he nominated her to a Sacramento state appeals court in 1994.

Two years later, she rose to the state Supreme Court. In 1997, Brown soon found herself embroiled in what was considered to be a controversial case at the time.

The justices, in a 4-3 vote, repealed California's law that required minors to acquire parental consent before getting an abortion. In a scathing dissent, Brown called her colleagues "philosopher kings" and deemed the case to be "an excellent example of the folly of courts."

Her signature case though, which caught the eye of conservatives and the Bush administration, came in 2000. Brown wrote the majority opinion in a case that provided the first application of Proposition 209's anti-affirmative action conditions. The opinion annulled a San Jose ordinance requiring government contractors to seek bids from companies owned by women or minorities. Brown denounced past affirmative-action decisions and argued that the Constitution calls for "equality of individual opportunity."

Her political similarities to the Bush administration do not end there. Brown, in accordance with White House efforts to expand the use of federal death-penalty statutes, regularly supports death sentences. In addition, her views on gun control are very similar to the policies of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Both support the right to own firearms and both believe the government has a role in placing restrictions on firearm ownership.

Seven years ago, many liberals attacked Brown, a minority woman, as unqualified for her current position on the state Supreme Court. Today, there can be no doubt that Brown is qualified to sit on the nation's highest court.

Although she is both smart and accomplished, there are doubts that she will gain the support of Senate Democrats, who have recently used filibusters on two conservative federal appellate candidates. She has also failed to garner the support of feminists. Instead of a minority woman whose credentials are impeccable, feminists are searching for a candidate who will serve their political agenda. Knowing that Brown will not voice anyone's views but her own, feminists refuse to support her.

Instead of criticizing her possible nomination, feminists and the left should acknowledge that Brown is deserving of appointment. She brings experience, independence, a commitment to true equality, and aversion to preferential treatment. Qualities in short supply.

If selected, one hopes that she will be confirmed without the usual partisan fighting or any shameful attempt to "Bork" her. Those who stoop to such tactics, particularly those who call themselves feminists, reveal a great deal about themselves.

Tammy Ku is Public-policy Intern, Business and Economic Studies at the Pacific Research Institute

copyright Pacific Research Institute



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