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Anniversary of Latino Nominee Brings Sadness to our Community


By Camille Solberg

May 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 highly qualified 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 state.

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 Estrada’s 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 legal concerns.

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 Frist’s 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 like ours!

-- Solberg is a published writer and columnist based in Appleton.

Camille Q. Solberg


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Copyright 2004 Washington Republican National Hispanic Assembly
Last modified: 06/22/05