Friday, February 20, 2004

Bill Pryor Recess Appointment

It looks like Bush did it again, according to The Corner. I thought the Pickering appointment would be an aberration because of its unique circumstances - Pickering hits retirement-pay eligibility right before his appointment ends (unless he's confirmed). Plus, the appointment basically flew under the radar, which might have been lucky. Or maybe no one in the general public cares.

Pryor, however, is a little younger, a little more controversial (at least in my mind), and thus a little more risky. That being said, I'm glad he's on the bench. He handled the Judge Moore situation quite well and seems to be fair-minded. I hope his tenure at the Eleventh Circuit shows off those qualities to everyone. Maybe the answer to liberal critics is to give the conservative guys a trial run - Ted Kennedy might be amazed to find that the Eleventh Circuit will not turn into "a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens . . ."

A problem with recess appointments is implicated in a "trial run" approach, however. A big part of good behavior tenure is that you don't care whether your decisions are popular - you don't have to please anyone. Pryor might be influenced to modify his decisionmaking to seem more pleasing to the Democrats when he's up for the real deal in 2005.

I do think there are a couple of responses to this argument: 1. if this process makes him more moderate, that's a good thing; and 2. the Democrats don't care if he becomes Justice Powell over the next two years - they don't want to incentivise this kind of tactic and thus are going to hold their ground - so why should he care about them? If his only chance is a big Senate win for the Republicans in 2004, political forces are unlikely to have an effect on him.

Well, whatever the case, welcome to the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Pryor. I look forward to seeing what kind of judge you'll be, and how your judicial career will play out.

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