Senate Confirms Priscilla Owen for Federal Bench, 56-43

Priscilla Owen was confirmed by the Senate for a lifetime appointment to the 5th Circuit, 56-43, after a four-year standoff.

After 4 Years, Senate Votes to Confirm Owen for Federal Bench (NYT | RSS)

Photo: While supporters saw Justice Priscilla R. Owen as a jurist of high intellect and integrity, opponents say that she was too far right ideologically. Justice Priscilla R. Owen of the Texas Supreme Court was confirmed by the Senate today for a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit after four years of frustration. The vote, 56 to 43, was mostly along party lines. It came a day after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to cut off debate on the nomination and give her the yes-or-no decision that her Republican backers had long sought. Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican majority leader, said afterward that the confirmation was “a great victory for the American people and, of course, a great victory for someone who has been very, very patient, very, very courageous, very, very bold throughout – Priscilla Owen.”

In four years of off-and-on debates, Justice Owen was described by her supporters as a jurist of wide-ranging intellect and impeccable integrity whose rise from a hardscrabble childhood to the top of her class at Baylor University and on to the Texas high court was the American dream come to life. But Justice Owen’s detractors, mostly Democrats, argued that she was too far right ideologically, as shown by decisions that favored big business over consumers, for example. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic minority leader, said on Tuesday that Justice Owen’s record on the Texas court revealed “an extreme ideological approach to the law.” “I hope she surprises those of us who have fought her nomination,” Mr. Reid went on. “Perhaps her experience as a judicial nominee has exposed her to a broader range of views, and that experience may make her more sensitive to concerns regarding privacy, civil rights and consumer rights.”

In any event, Justice Owen, 50, now has a lifetime seat on the federal appeals court, based in New Orleans. Votes on two more of President Bush’s stalled nominees for federal appeals posts, Justice Janice Rogers Brown of the California Supreme Court and William Pryor, are expected soon.


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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dodd says:

    The Times is in error. I looked at the actual Roll Call vote; it was 55-43. For some reason, Stevens (R-AK) voted “Present.”