Corporate Allies at the DC Circuit

As a great reminder of what's at stake this Election Day, Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein wrote a piece this weekend excoriating the far-right judges who have taken over the DC Circuit Court. Nominated by George W. Bush, they have behaved on the bench exactly as predicted by those who opposed them, including People For the American Way: They are using their judicial positions to impose their far-right ideological agenda onto the nation, bending the law beyond recognition in order to empower already-powerful corporations and striking down reasonable regulations through which the American people seek to hold businesses accountable.

For example, Pearlstein describes a poorly reasoned decision from August in which Bush judges granted the wishes of major corporate polluters and struck down the EPA's rules on air pollution that crosses state lines:

... 60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.

You find a judge without a shred of technical training formulating his own policy solution to an incredibly complex problem and substituting it for the solution proposed by experienced experts.

You find an appeals court judge so dismissive of the most fundamental rules of judicial restraint that he dares to throw out regulations on the basis of concerns never raised during the rule-making process or in the initial court appeal.

Pearlstein also describes how this same court has struck down regulations to let shareholders nominate directors of the companies they own (although they were ordered by Congress), and to include graphic warnings on cigarette packages (because Bush judges disagreed with FDA experts on whether they would be useful).

The DC Circuit is perhaps the nation's second most powerful court, behind only the Supreme Court. Yet because only a handful of cases ever reach the Supreme Court, it is usually the DC Circuit that gets the last word. So when large corporations want to cripple the American people's ability to enact reasonable regulations to impose limits on the power of corporations, they look to the current DC Circuit for allies.

That is why Republicans filibustered President Obama's nomination of Caitlin Halligan, a highly qualified jurist who would not use the court as an ideological weapon. And that is why they are licking their chops at the possibility that Mitt Romney might have a chance to stack the DC Circuit will even more right-wing extremists, just as he would do with the Supreme Court.

PFAW