While many conservatives cheered President Bush’s recess appointment of former Alabama Attorney General William Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, others are still smarting from the new jurist’s actions targeting Judge Roy Moore over the Ten Commandments.
Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor (Photo: WSFA.com)
Bush made the appointment Friday, bypassing a Democratic filibuster of Pryor’s nomination, which had languished for nearly a year. The action places the 41-year-old on the court until 2005, when Senate action would be required for him to remain on the job.
As attorney general, Pryor led the state’s case against Moore, who was dismissed from office Nov. 13 for defiance of a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument. Moore said he was ousted because he failed a “religious test” forcing him to choose between allegiance to God and his job.
Eunie Smith, president of the Eagle Forum in Birmingham, Ala., said that while her group supported Pryor’s appointment, it had some concerns about the job he would do.
“There was disagreement, ill will,” she told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “He prosecuted Chief Justice Moore.”
In his brief in the Moore case, Pryor argued the judge should be removed because he “intentionally and publicly engaged in misconduct, and because he remains unrepentant for his behavior.”
The chief justice deserved the severest penalty for his “sensational flouting of a valid federal injunction,” Pryor wrote.
But Moore’s ouster angered many conservatives.
Focus on the Family Chairman James Dobson called the decision “an insult to all people of faith, who are being told that the public acknowledgement of God is unconstitutional.”
In an interview with WorldNetDaily, Moore criticized Pryor for being willing to “obey a judge who tells him he can’t acknowledge God, despite the fact that the Constitution of Alabama says we must.”
Pryor’s supporters, on the other hand, saw his action in the Moore case as evidence he puts the law above his personal beliefs. Both Moore and Pryor are Christians.
William Stewart, former chairman of the University of Alabama political science department, says Pryor’s performance during the Ten Commandments case demonstrated a dedication to upholding the law in an unbiased manner.
“That takes a lot of courage,” Stewart told the school’s Crimson White newspaper.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., also praised the appointment.
“I’ve known the attorney general for a long time. I was the one that introduced him to the judiciary committee when he came up for appointment. I supported him. I think this is the right thing to do,” said Shelby.
Some analysts saw Pryor’s prosecution of Moore as a move intended to soften opposition to his nomination for the bench. His targeting of Moore hasn’t exactly allayed concerns of liberals, however.
Ronald Jackson is director of the Birmingham-based activist group People United. A year ago his group, after several controversial statements by Pryor, changed its name to People United to Stop Pryor Now, the Atlanta paper reported.
“Bill Pryor is obviously the golden boy for conservative causes in the judiciary,” said Jackson. “Civil rights, abortion, our rights to privacy would take a big hit if the Bill Pryor we know in Alabama serves on the appellate court.”
The National Organization for Women is “appalled” by Pryor’s appointment.
Said NOW President Kim Gandy: “It is outrageous that Bush has again circumvented the legal process to appoint a right-wing judicial activist during a congressional recess. This further demonstrates his total disregard for the women of this country and democracy in general.”