GOP: lesbian would be ‘activist judge’

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn says lesbian federal court nominee Alison Nathan sounds like an “activist judge” to him, but he’s voting against her, he says, because she has lacks “substantial litigation experience.”

Coburn was one of four Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against advancing Nathan’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for Southern New York to the full Senate. In doing so, he submitted a written statement detailing his objections.

The statement mentions nothing about Nathan’s sexual orientation or the fact that she is one of only three openly gay federal court nominees put forth by the Obama administration.

Coburn’s objections, like those of Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the committee, focus on Nathan’s “lack of experience,” her willingness to take notice of “foreign law,” and her support for the fair treatment of foreigners detained on suspicion of terrorism.

“Looking to foreign law,” wrote Coburn, in his statement, “is a tool of activist judges who seek to reach the outcomes they desire, based on their personal sympathies and prejudices, rather than on the law. These judges cannot find a basis for their decisions in American law and tradition so they look to the laws and norms of foreign countries to justify their decisions.”

“….Perhaps if Ms. Nathan had more substantial litigation experience, she would have a record by which I could determine that she would not be a judicial activist,” concluded Coburn. “However, without such a record and with so little legal experience, I will vote against her nomination.”

The term “activist judge” is a creation of conservatives, initially intended to point out how some judges read a great deal of meaning into specific words in the constitution, compared to “originalist” judges who read only the specific word in the text with its 1789 definition unchanged. But nowadays, the term “activist judge” is employed so frequently it has become more of a political slur thrown at judges who render decisions with which the critic disagrees.

Meanwhile, the Senate is scheduled to debate and vote on the nomination of openly gay attorney Paul Oetken to serve on the same U.S. District Court (Southern New York) to which Nathan is also nominated. The floor scheduled published by Democrats indicates the nomination will come up at 5 p.m. EDT and that 30 minutes of debate has been allotted.

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