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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Still Hope Yet For the Judiciary…

This week, three different circuit courts handed down three seperate positive decisions. On Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a Virginia law banning so-called “partial birth abortion.” That same day, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling stating that the US currency system discriminates against the blind. And on Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the reinstatement of an Air Force flight-nurse who had been discharged under the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

While these decisions are certainly a boon to equal rights and constitutional protections, they seem to be the exception, rather than the rule. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently threw out a class-action suit against big tobacco. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned several California laws attempting to cut down on dangerous carbon emissions and extended the reasoning of theSupreme Court's Ledbetter decision to eviscerate the Fair Housing Act. And the Eighth and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeal have both dismissed workplace discrimination suits resulting from gender and race biases.

Alarmingly, these are just a few examples the many conservative and pro-business decisions coming down lately from almost every circuit court in the country. Alliance for Justice has spent years fighting the movement conservatives’ campaign to pack our courts with ideologues concerned only with furthering their radical right-wing agenda, and President Bush has brought their dream to the brink of success.

Over his eight year tenure, he has appointed more than 30% of the judges currently serving in the judiciary. Ten of the 13 circuit courts are now majority-Republican appointed. While the Supreme Court gets the bulk of the media attention, these circuit courts have a much more prominent role in shaping our nation’s laws – hearing almost 30,000 cases a year, compared to just over 70 for the Supreme Court last term.

As a result, it is crucial that the public educate itself about the role the role these courts play in all of our lives. To learn more about our fight to ensure a fair and independent judiciary, check out our website at http://www.afj.org/connect-with-the-issues/independent-courts-fair-judges.html.

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