Nominee Has Antigay History
April 11, 2003
Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor got a long-awaited
appointment to the federal bench Wednesday, but it’s unclear whether his
political stands and experience will help or hinder him. Pryor is an outspoken
opponent of abortion rights and has argued against a lawsuit that challenged
Alabama’s antigay sodomy law.
Pryor’s nomination to the 11th circuit court of appeals
in Atlanta—which handles appellate cases for Alabama, Florida, and
Georgia—had been expected since January, when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
announced that President Bush was eyeing Pryor for the job. Bush made the
selection official Wednesday, and Pryor, 40, indicated in a brief statement
that he would accept.
“I look forward to the confirmation process of the U.S.
Senate,” said Pryor, a Republican who last November was elected to his
second two-year term as the state’s top judicial official. “In the
meantime, I will continue to strive, as attorney general, to represent the
people of Alabama with integrity to the best of my ability by upholding the
Constitution and laws of our nation and state.”
It could take months for Pryor’s nomination to work its
way through the confirmation process. The first step will likely be a hearing
before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which Sessions occupies an
influential post. Sessions and Alabama’s senior senator, Republican Richard
Shelby, gave Pryor a ringing endorsement, but Sessions conceded that Pryor’s
political activity and outspoken opposition to abortion rights could make him
a target of liberals. “The fact he has written and made speeches does mean
the people out there trying to find a basis to object to nominees might find
something,” said Sessions, whose own nomination to the federal bench was
scuttled by Democrats several years ago. “These people will comb through
everything he’s written and said.”
Pryor was first appointed as Alabama’s attorney general
in January 1997, when Sessions, his predecessor, was elected to the Senate.
Pryor graduated from Tulane Law School and was a law clerk for U.S. circuit
court judge John Minor Wisdom. He has experience in private practice in
Birmingham and in 1995 was hired as Sessions’s deputy attorney general in
charge of special civil and constitutional litigation.
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