Rejected court nominees face new grilling in Senate
By Jesse J. Holland
WASHINGTON Two of President Bush's most divisive court nominations, Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering and Texas Judge Priscilla Owen, will face new questions this year from the same Democrats who rejected the appeals court appointments last year.
Pickering and Owen were the only two White House judicial nominees voted down by Judiciary Democrats when they controlled the Senate last year. Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, plans to let senators question the two again in hopes of rehabilitating their nominations.
Bush renominated the two earlier this month, much to the Democrats' chagrin.
"I'm trying to be cooperative," Hatch said. "We'll have a hearing on Pickering because I'm trying to show deference to them."
Pickering, a U.S. District judge in Hattiesburg, Miss., and a friend of Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., was blocked by Democrats last year after civil rights groups questioned his record on race relations.
Owen, a Texas Supreme Court justice and friend of the president, was rejected after Democrats complained her rulings were overly influenced by personal beliefs.
Both were nominated for seats on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.