William S. Mount
PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION
Brown Deserves Fairness
[William S. Mount] 11/01/03
from all indications, organized opposition to the White House
of Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California
Supreme Court to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia circuit will prove to be every bit
as mean-spirited, out-of-bounds and personally scalding as the
opposition the usual suspects threw at Justice Clarence Thomas
during his Senate confirmation hearings over a decade ago. Ralph
Neas, head of People for the American Way (PFAW) and a proven
ace at the art of character assassination, put the matter this
way: Justice Brown, he said, "is the far right's dream judge.
She embodies Clarence Thomas' ideological extremism and Antonin
Scalia's abrasiveness and right-wing activism." It's a stinging--even
There is, of course, another side to this story. And as a lawyer
who had the great honor to serve as her first chief of staff
following her confirmation as a Justice of the California Supreme
Court, I can tell you nothing but good about the quality of her
work and her character. It is nothing like the portrait Mr. Neas
gives us. Brown is committed to individual liberty. She respects
judicial modesty and is allied to a deference to the legislative
branch. Her view is that prudence is the first principle of sound
Janice Brown grew up in the segregated South, the child of sharecroppers.
Coming to California with her parents, she received an undergraduate
degree from Cal. State and went on to law school at UCLA. A widowed
single parent, she took her son with her to law school classes
and worked nights. She later remarried and continued in government
service in Sacramento, in time rising to become California Governor
Pete Wilson's chief legal adviser. From there, the Governor nominated
her to serve on the Third District Court of Appeal. With its
proximity to the seat of state government, this court is not
unlike the federal District of Columbia Court of Appeals to which
the President has named her.
1996 nomination of Janice Rogers Brown to a seat on the California
Supreme Court sparked outcries from the infamous
JENY commission, a quasi-public body that evaluates judicial
nominees. They called her "unqualified" to serve on
the high court, saying she was too "opinionated." However,
her sterling track record impeaches every word pronounced on
her by the liberals at JENY. Janice Brown is a hands-on workhorse,
who has consistently authored more opinions each year than any
other member of the California Supreme Court. And they are not
just any opinions. She has written for the majority in some of
the court's more controversial cases-- for example, approving
injunctions against lawless gangs congregating in residential
neighborhoods. Her dissenting opinions are equally compelling.
She parted company with the majority's decision to strike down
California's parental notification requirement for underage girls
seeking abortions. When I worked for Brown, I often thought that
her place in history will be in the long and distinguished line
of American dissenters along with Justices like Oliver Wendell
During the last round of confirmation elections, Janice Brown
received an approval rating of 76% of the electorate, the highest
of any Supreme Court Justice on the ballot. President Bush's
nomination of her to the prestigious District of Columbia Circuit
has evoked the unanimous support of her former colleagues at
the Third District Court of Appeal.
Janice Brown is caught just now in the mills of the Gods of
the United States Senate. Or, more accurately, of the Senate
Judiciary Committee, whose members are expected to vote on her
nomination by next Thursday, November 6. The outrage practiced
by the Democratic Senate minority--repeatedly filibustering the
President's nominations of conservative jurists, in some cases
till the nominee asked that his name be withdrawn--is waiting
in the wings in Janice Brown's case, too.
Filibustering this highly qualified candidate would be a travesty.
We hope that Janice Brown is given the up-or-down vote that the
Senate's advise-and-consent role demands, and that this brilliant
William S. Mount is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation.
He served as California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown's
first chief of staff from 1996 - 2000.