In a victory for proponents of labor rights, civil liberties and civil rights, judicial nominee Miguel Estrada withdrew his name for consideration for a judgeship on the on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. Estrada withdrew his name in a letter to the president on Sept. 4.

Since his nomination two years ago, Democrats have filibustered when the nomination was presented before the full Senate. In the hearings before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, Estrada refused to answer any questions on his legal philosophy. The White House also refused any information on Estrada, even though he worked there as assistant solicitor general for five years.

Leaders of labor, liberal and progressive groups have charged that Estrada was another of George W. Bush’s “stealth candidates.” They say that the president is attempting to stack the federal judiciary with right-wing ideologues who hide their beliefs. These nominees would then issue rulings based on their ideology. They fear these ultra-right judges would declare as unconstitutional many rights and benefits won by popular struggle over the last 70 years, such as a woman’s right to choose, labor rights, gay rights, and civil rights.

Last March, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chávez-Thompson called Estrada “a mystery nominee … who has refused to tell the Senate where he stands on civil rights … workers rights … [and] constitutional rights.” She added, “Working people can’t trust a silent nominee to assure us that the federal courts will protect our right to a fair and safe workplace, to minimum wages and the right to organize a union.”

The White House and Republican leaders claimed that Estrada’s nomination was opposed by the Democrats because he is Hispanic, even though groups like the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, among other Latino organizations, all opposed him. Latino groups say that having Estrada as a judge would not be in the interest of the Latino population of the United States.

Chávez-Thompson was among over 100 Latino labor leaders who said in a statement last February that, although they “support diversity in the federal judiciary and … are painfully aware that Latinos are underrepresented on the federal bench,” they could not support Estrada.

In a statement issued the same day that Estrada’s withdrawal was announced, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a civil and human rights coalition, welcomed the news. Antonia Hernández, vice-chairperson of that organization’s executive committee, said, “Bush’s next nominee to the D.C. Circuit should add greater balance to that court and contribute to its diversity, but diversity at the expense of the Latino community’s substantive concerns will not be acceptable.”

Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, called the withdrawal “a huge victory.” The feminist leader commended the senators who filibustered, “thereby requiring any extremist nominee to achieve at least 60 votes.” She said that any “mainstream nominee” will easily meet that standard. Gandy urged the senators to keep filibustering against other extremist nominees to the federal judiciary.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org

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