The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Sunday, May 22, 2005

A look at Priscilla Owen

Joe Conason has rounded up the case against Owen for his latest column in Salon. Nominated for a lifetime post on the federal appellate court, she is the judge that the GOP is using as the poster child for Bush's "unfairly rejected" judicial nominees-- and the debate over her record is likely to trigger the nuclear option on Tuesday. Living in a state with two senators who will oppose the change to Senate rules, it doesn't do me any good to write to them. But if you live in a state with a Republican senator, you should write to them before Tuesday.

Here are a few things you should know about the obviously corrupt Owen:

"Among the most notorious examples is a case in which Owen wrote the majority opinion that allowed Enron Corp. to escape more than $200,000 in school district taxes. In her 1994 campaign, she took $8,600 from the Houston energy firm and $31,550 from its lawyers at the powerhouse firm of Vinson & Elkins; her consultant Rove also worked for Enron. Two years later, when Spring Independent School District vs. Enron reached her court, she did not recuse herself from the case. Her opinion allowed Enron to choose its own method for valuation, cutting the taxable property assessment by millions of dollars.

So obnoxious was her conduct in the Enron case that it provoked the Houston Chronicle -- a newspaper that has enthusiastically endorsed Bush -- to urge the Senate to reject her nomination three years ago. While acknowledging that Democratic objections to Owen were hardly apolitical, the newspaper's editorial said the Democrats were also displaying "a rational desire to prevent the lifetime appointment of a justice who has shown a clear preference for ruling to achieve a particular result rather than impartially interpreting the law. . ."

One of her better-known dissents came in a case that tested the constitutionality of a state law that had been written specifically to exempt a land developer from the city of Austin's water quality regulations.

Having taken $2,500 from that developer (and an additional $45,000 from the developer's law firm), Owen blasted her colleagues for violating the firm's "property rights," which included the right to foul the water supply in her view. The majority replied that her dissent was "nothing more than inflammatory rhetoric and thus merits no response."