February 11, 2008


Passing Judgment: Bush's latest controversial judicial nominee opposes abortion and gay rights. But there's a reason why he may not be so bad on the bench. (Stephanie Mencimer, 2/08/08, Mother Jones)

On Feb. 12, the Senate will hold a confirmation hearing for several of Bush's judicial nominees to the federal trial courts. Among them is Richard Honaker, a former Wyoming state legislator who led several efforts to abolish abortion in the state. He has a fairly long record of Bible-thumping and a very public disdain for separation of church and state. During his speech at the State Home School Convention in 2005, Honaker said, "We would like to see political liberty established in an Islamic country—Iraq—but the question is, how will political liberty sustain itself in the absence of a Judeo-Christian base?" For 15 years, Honaker also has served on the board of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which along with defending home-schooling parents from child abuse and neglect charges, has lobbied against gay marriage, sex education, and multicultural classroom material.

No surprise, then, that liberal legal groups, women's organizations and pro-choice activists have begun mounting opposition to Honaker's nomination. "He believes the law should reflect Christianity," says Simon Heller, legal director for the Alliance for Justice, a liberal activist group opposing Honaker's nomination. [...]

Honaker's website boasts that the lawyer won an $8.6 million settlement for a man who lost both his legs in a catastrophic railroad accident, the largest of its sort in the country, ever. Current cases include suits against oil and gas companies on behalf of workers injured on drilling rigs, class actions over dangerous prescription drugs, and many garden variety negligence suits against nursing homes and the makers of other dangerous products. As the president of the Wyoming bar association, Honaker even wrote an article for the Wyoming Lawyer opposing restrictions on medical malpractice lawsuits in 2003. He is, in short, precisely the kind of lawyer that Republicans love to hate.

That's why, despite his stance on abortion and sex ed, it's entirely possible that the average Jane would be much better off appearing before Judge Honaker than before most of Bush's other nominees. Many of Bush's appointees cut their teeth in corporate defense law and as judges they can't get plaintiffs out of their courtrooms fast enough. (And of course, they all oppose abortion and gay marriage, too.) Their rulings have made the federal courts increasingly hostile territory for the type of people Honaker has represented. His long history of fighting for the little guy suggests a Western populist streak that may transcend his recent membership in the right-wing Federalist Society.

Indeed, conservative Christian plaintiff lawyers like Honaker have much in common with liberals once they get beyond religious hot-button issues like abortion. After all, the Bible does say, “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits" (Exodus 23:6).

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2008 1:30 PM

"Niether shalt thou favor the poor man in thy judgement." Ex. 23:3

Justice is justice, it is not doing what makes us feel warm and fuzzy. God despises false judgement whether in favor of the rich or the poor.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 11, 2008 8:48 PM