(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Friday, May 09, 2003

Bill Pryor on Bill Pryor
So Alabama AG Bill Pryor, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, has issued a press release responding to those who have attacked his stance on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Here are two quotes. The first is from his press release:
I believe the Voting Rights Act is one of the greatest and most necessary laws in American history. I have expressed some concern that Congress should consider minor changes to that vital law to end procedural and political abuses that do not affect minority voters and were never intended by Congress.
. Now here is a quote from Bill Pryor's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, in 1997. After discussing some litigation under the Voting Rights Act -- including a case in which I participated, which was an effort to increase the opportunity of Black voters to elect candidates of their choice to Alabama's appellate courts, and other cases that involved expansion of local governing bodies so that Black voters would be able to elect a candidate of their choosing to multi-member boards -- Pryor called these rulings a "dramatic" and "intrusive abuse of judicial power", and further said to the Senate:
I encourage you to consider seriously, for example, the repeal or amendment of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is an affront to federalism and an expensive burden that has far outlived its usefulness, and consider modifying other provisions of the Act that have led to extraordinary abuses of judicial power.
Pryor's Senate testimony was not -- despite the apparent assertion in his press release -- talking about "procedural and political abuses that do not affect minority voters"; instead he was talking about judicial decrees that were designed to improve the strength of minority voters but that Pryor felt had gone too far or otherwise erred. And he was not -- despite the apparent assertion in his press release -- talking about "minor changes". He was instead expressly talking about repeal of Section 5 itself, along with other changes to the law. The repeal of Section 5, as anyone familiar with the Act could tell you, would be no "minor change"; Section 5 is one of the major provisions of the law, with a focus and effect different from the other provisions of the law. And he was not -- despite the implication in his press release -- talking about simply putting things back to the way that Congress had "intended"; instead, his attack on Section 5 was expressly based on a vision of "federalism," though no such "federalism" had been any part of Congress's intent in enacting Section 5 in the first place.

The best thing that Bill Pryor has going for his nomination, I think, is his reputation for candor. But if this press release is any indication, he may be voluntarily giving up that one advantage.

posted by sam 1:16 PM 0 comments


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