The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for Fifth Circuit nominee, Jennifer Elrod of Texas, yesterday. Jennifer Elrod is forty-one years old and has very little experience. She served as an associate at the law firm of Baker, Botts L.L.P. for eight years before becoming a district judge in Harris County, Texas. Elrod has only been a judge for five years and has not written even one legal opinion. Prior to her hearing, Alliance for Justice sent this letter to Judiciary Committee Chair, Patrick Leahy, and Ranking Member, Arlen Specter, expressing our concerns about Elrod.
At her hearing, Judge Elrod did nothing to alleviate our concerns or to prove that she is qualified to fill a lifetime appointment as a Circuit Court of Appeals judge. In answering questions posed by Senator Cardin – who was chairing the hearing – and Senator Cornyn about how she would ensure equal access to the courts, how she would address the needs of the large minority population of the Fifth Circuit, how she would enforce the rights and interests of the powerless, and how she would balance individual rights against the rights of government and corporations, Judge Elrod failed to provide substantive answers. She continually stated that her job as a judge was simply to look at the law and the facts and apply the law. Pulling a John Roberts, Elrod even stated that her job was not to take a side but simply to “call balls and strikes.”
While John Roberts may have claimed that he would simply be an umpire calling balls and strikes, we have already seen that he has been far from impartial as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Like John Roberts when he was nominated, Elrod does not have a substantial record from which the Senate Judiciary Committee can evaluate her judicial philosophy. The Senate should not confirm judicial nominees who claim that they simply “call balls and strikes” only to find out later how detrimental their views are to the American people.
Following Elrod’s hearing, Alliance for Justice released a press release calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee not to move forward with Elrod’s nomination: “Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, noted, ‘Judge Elrod’s lack of experience, combined with her failure to provide meaningful answers, makes this nomination too risky for the judiciary and the American people.’”