July 3, 2005


The Garza file (First Reads, MSNBC)

Judge Emilio Miller Garza, 57, currently sits on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. A native of San Antonio, TX, Garza received a BA and Masters from Notre Dame, and then served three years in the Marines before attending law school at the University of Texas. Upon graduation, he went into private practice before appointments to serve as a state district judge (in 1987), federal district judge (in 1988), and in his current position on the 5th Circuit (in 1991). In both of his federal judicial nominations, Garza won Senate approval by unanimous consent and received “qualified” ratings by the American Bar Association.

Just five weeks after he was confirmed in 1991, however, Garza made national headlines when it was reported that he was on Bush 41's short list to replace Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. He was flown to DC and interviewed by the US attorney general and the White House general counsel. In fact, it was reported that he was one of the two finalists for this position, but Bush ultimately went with Clarence Thomas. Garza has since added 14 years of experience on the 5th Circuit, and a recent AP profile noted that he is “an avid questioner in oral arguments” who “writes opinions that are clear and scholarly.”

According to most media accounts, Garza is a conservative, although his 1991 nomination was supported by home-state Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) and the liberal-leaning Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. Colleagues, per these accounts, say the judge is a strong Catholic (he has been known to attend mass during his lunch hour) and a political conservative. Former Sen. Phil Gramm (R) of Texas had this to say back in 1987, when he first recommended Garza’s appointment to the federal bench: “Judge Garza shares with me a belief in the strict construction of the Constitution.” If Garza is chosen, Democrats and abortion-rights groups will likely question his views on abortion. (Indeed, NARAL registered the URL http://www.stopgarza.comb back in 2003.) He has twice reluctantly sided with 5th Circuit decisions striking down two different Louisiana laws that restricted abortion. But at the same time, he wrote concurring opinions in those cases criticizing the Supreme Court precedents he was forced to obey. Last November, LifeNews.com, which reports on abortion for the pro-life community, said: “Judge Garza’s opposition to abortion is beyond question. He wrote two separate opinions explicitly criticizing Roe v. Wade and suggesting it be overturned.”

If Bush selects Garza -- or US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales -- he would become the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court. Yet there would be some debate about it. As it turns out, Benjamin Cardozo, who was named to the Court in 1932, had Portuguese ancestors, and is listed in a book entitled “Hispanic Firsts” as the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice. But Minnesota attorney Frederick Ramos, who researched and analyzed this subject in a 2003 article in Minnesota Lawyer, concluded that Cardozo wouldn’t fall under the commonly understood term Hispanic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 3, 2005 11:42 AM

57 years old. Not to be greedy, but I would prefer a 40 year old, non-smoker, low-cholesterol, exercise nut. That will really p*ss the Democrats.

Posted by: h-man at July 3, 2005 11:48 AM

If Emilio Garza is in average health for a 57 year old American, then he could easily have 50 years on the bench - assuming that he doesn't get fed up or bored with it before then.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 3, 2005 12:08 PM

Age shouldn't be so much a concern. He is still fairly young by American standards, and even if he is "only" on the court for 20 years, with the way the political winds are blowing, the Court won't be moving anything but to the right for the foreseeable future...

Posted by: b at July 3, 2005 12:19 PM

I've got a novel idea. How about a W.A.S.P. Right Winger who also happens to be male? There's already enough, too many women and minorities.

Posted by: NC3 at July 3, 2005 2:01 PM

If Bush is going to go for a Hispanic (assuming he doesn't go female to replace O'Conner) Garza seems to be much more acceptable than Gonzalez. And of course there is Estrada.

Posted by: AWW at July 3, 2005 2:16 PM

Identity politics is about the only way conservatives can get on the Court given how much hell the left raises when one is nominated.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at July 3, 2005 5:36 PM

No, no, no. It's the Clarence Thomas gambit. The idea is to "burn" the quota seats with conservatives so that if the other side ever got a chance to nominate somebody, the quota spot is already filled.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 4, 2005 6:13 AM


Which brings us back to Janice Rogers Brown.

Posted by: Bartman at July 4, 2005 8:02 AM