Leading Constitutional and Civil Rights Attorneys Hail Change in Federal Judiciary
February 6, 2009 — A new administration in Washington portends a dramatic – and overdue – shift for the federal judiciary, two of the nation’s leading civil rights and constitutional attorneys said during a visit to Earle Mack School of Law on Feb. 6.
Former President George W. Bush appointed uniformly conservative judges to the federal courts, said Michael Avery, a former president of the National Lawyers Guild, law professor at Suffolk University and editor of the recently published “We Dissent, Talking Back to the Rehnquist Court.”
Having appointed roughly half of the federal judges now on the bench, Bush created a judiciary that serves the interests of government and businesses more than those of ordinary people, Avery said at the event, which was sponsored by Earle Mack School of Law and the National Lawyers Guild’s Philadelphia and Drexel University chapters.
Broadcast live on C-Span 2’s “Book TV,” the event also featured David Rudovsky, a founding partner of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and nationally renowned expert on criminal and civil rights law.
Contending the federal bench and the U.S. Supreme Court are now “populated by an elite and by people who are out of touch with ordinary Americans,” Avery said President Barack Obama should appoint judges who will uphold the rights of battered women, labor unionists and even suspected terrorists.
“The Rehnquist Court protects government from the people instead of upholding the Bill of Rights,” Avery said, adding that the nation’s highest court has also moved to strike down legislation enacted by Congress to remedy shortcomings in the legal system.
Rudovsky, a contributor to “We Dissent,” said Bush’s appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court produced little-heralded rulings that will affect people as dramatically as some of the headline-grabbing decisions.
In one such overlooked ruling, Saucier v Katz, the Court gave police and public officials “qualified immunity,” so that victims of abuse cannot obtain compensation, even after proving that their rights were violated, Rudovsky said. The Court’s ruling in Strickland v Washington set the bar so low for determining competent legal representation that indigent clients will have enormous difficulty securing effective counsel, Rudovsky said.
While President Obama has the power to appoint judges, Avery said, the legal community has an equally important role to press for the kinds of appointees who will serve the country best.
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