Anniversary of Latino
Nominee Brings Sadness to our Community
By Camille Solberg
9, 2001 was a day of great pride for many Latinos as President Bush
announced his plans to nominate Miguel Estrada for a seat on the District of
Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. A Latino in the courts I thought! The
nomination should have gone smoothly but that did not happened. Miguel
Estrada, a Honduran immigrant was and is the American dream in my eyes. He
was of a brilliant legal mind, went to Harvard Law School, clerked for a
Supreme Court justice, and worked in both the Bush and Clinton
administrations. Republicans and Democrats alike heralded his abilities
while the non-partisan American Bar Association pronounced him
to serve on the court.
In February 2003, the Democrats in the judiciary committee took the
unprecedented step of denying a judicial nominee with majority support the
courtesy of an up-or-down vote. The debate over this Latino nominee endured
for over 100 hours and Senators supporting his nomination attempted seven
times to bring it up for a vote. Each time, they failed. After more than two
years, Miguel Estrada withdrew his name from consideration.
Sadly he was not the only judge denied this right. Judge Pricilla Owens,
also an appeals court nominee, went thru the same ordeal. Ms. Owens had an
impressive resume as well. She was an elected judge on the Texas Supreme
Court for the last ten years, she received 84
percent of the vote and the endorsement of every major newspaper in the
In Texas Democrats and Republican came to hold her legal judgment in high
respect. A former Justice and Democrat, Raul Gonzalez said of Owens that he
found her to be apolitical, extremely bright, diligent in her work, and of
the highest integrity. He continues to say that he recommended her for
confirmation without reservation.
Justice Owen received support from 84% percent of Texans. They were
Democrats and Republicans alike. Again the same Senate Democrats who fought
Miguel Estradas nomination have aligned themselves against her.
Obstructionism breaks democracy and comes against the natural role of the
Senate. Qualify people are unjustly given an unfair opportunity plus it
denies many Americans with pressing legal matters a prompt hearing of their
Recently Senate majority leader Bill Frist proposed a solution called the
Fairness Rule: a floor vote for all nominees to Courts of Appeal and the
Supreme Court, up to 100 hours of floor debate, and protection of the
filibuster on legislation. But again Democratic leaders are not willing to
give Frists proposals careful consideration.
The Senates job, above all is to vote. But again and very sadly for all
Americans as well as Latinos, the Senate has refused to vote. Senators
should do what the people elected them to do. Priscilla Owen deserves a vote
as well as any other nominee. As a Latina I will never forget the day Judge
Miguel Estrada had to step down due to the injustice committed against him.
This should had never happened in a democracy
-- Solberg is a published writer and
columnist based in Appleton.
Camille Q. Solberg