Committee for Justice

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The Committee for Justice was featured by Washington Post writer David Von Drehle on July 23, 2002, in the article "New GOP Group to Push For Judicial Nominees."

"A number of prominent Republicans, led by former White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, have formed a committee to pressure the Senate to approve President George Walker Bush's nominees for federal judgeships.

"The group, called the Committee for Justice, will be announced today at a news conference. Gray plans to unveil a television advertisement criticizing Texas Democrat Ron Kirk, the party's Senate nominee, for his opposition to Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, a Bush nominee to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Other television campaigns envisioned by the committee could target Sens. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.). Cleland is up for reelection against a tough opponent, and Edwards is testing the waters for a presidential bid in 2004. Both men are viewed as potentially vulnerable to conservative pressure at home.

"The hope is that targeted Democrats will urge Senate leaders -- especially Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) -- to schedule hearings on a number of nominees who have been in limbo for a year or more.

"'I don't know if it is going to work or not,' Gray said in an interview. 'Judicial nominations are not an easy issue to turn into a general political issue. But it's worth trying. We can't possibly make things any worse than they are now.'

"The committee is an outgrowth of a bitter fight earlier this year over the nomination of U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. When Pickering was narrowly rejected, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a friend of Pickering, urged GOP insiders to establish a conservative counterweight to the liberal organizations that had led the attack.

"Lobbyist Ed Rogers and international trade lawyer Edwin Williamson, both members of George Herbert Walker Bush's administration, joined Gray as founders of the new committee. Members include Govs. John Engler of Michigan and Frank A. Keating of Oklahoma, former senator Connie Mack of Florida, former White House counsel Fred Fielding and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour.

"Gray said he hopes to offset the influence of People for the American Way (PFAW), a liberal lobbying group that has focused much of its efforts on opposing conservative Bush nominees. In fact, the committee's Web site will feature a picture of PFAW President Ralph G. Neas as the face of the opposition.

"'I think there is a sense that People for the American Way is sort of unopposed,' Gray said. 'I hope when there is a TV show or story done on this subject, we could represent the other side.'

"The committee will not pursue any other agenda, Gray said.

"Neas said he would 'relish the opportunity to debate Boyden Gray and company.' He charged that conservatives want to 'turn the clock back on civil rights' and other issues, and that they intend to use the courts to do it. 'It really is an epic battle,' Neas said.

"He also predicted that the effort to make judicial nominations into a political issue -- even in conservative Southern states -- will fail. 'The last time the judiciary was made into an issue was in 1986,' Neas said, when President Ronald Reagan tried it on behalf of Republican candidates.

"In that off-year election, Democrats captured control of the Senate."