Brennan Center Hands Out Court Pester Awards

June 15, 1999

For Immediate Release

June 15, 1999

Contact Information:

Ken Weine, 212 998-6736

Brennan Center Hands Out Court Pester Awards

Preempts Court Jester Awards of the conservative Family Research Council

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law today announced the recipients of its first Court Pester Awards, as a counter to the destructive and inaccurate Court Jester Awards being given out by the Family Research Council.

“The politically motivated attacks on judges and their rulings waged by the Family Research Council demand a response,” Brennan Center Deputy Director Nancy Northup stated. “Our judges have the daunting task of upholding the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, even when these rights compel unpopular results. Apparently unwilling to respect this role - the Family Research Council has decided to be court pesters not jesters.”

The Brennan Center’s Court Pester Awards recognize four categories of court critics. The 1999 winners are:

Three Branches Is A Crowd Award Winner: Rep. Tom DeLay

To the individual who has shown the greatest disregard for having an independent judicial branch.

Boasting that “judges need to be intimidated” and that he has “a whole big file cabinet full” of names of judges he would like to impeach, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is without parallel in his intemperate attacks on judges. Speaking at a “judicial imperialism” conference in October 1998, Delay warned: “[We have] an imperial judiciary that knows no bounds to its power or its tenure. This is a recipe for tyranny!”

Independence, Shmindependence Award Winner: Max Boot, The Wall Street Journal

To the journalist who has been least respectful of judges’ obligations to fidelity to the Constitution, not to public opinion.

Branching out from his Wall Street Journal perch to write Out of Order: Arrogance Corruption and Incompetence on the Bench (Basic Books 1998), Boot introduced a thesis defying America’s Constitutional history and political experiences. Instead of treasuring the Founder’s wisdom of inoculating judges from partisan winds, Boot argued that judicial independence and judicial review is “the basic problem” of our court system

disAppoint / unConfirm Award Winner: Senator Orrin Hatch

      To the officeholder most derelict in his or her duty to appoint or confirm (whichever relevant) judicial nominees.

      Upset that President Clinton has not nominated a controversial candidate that the Utah Senator favors, Hatch is wielding his power as Senate Judiciary Chair in a nearly unprecedented manner. Hatch has stopped all judicial confirmation hearings - there are currently 42 pending nominations for 70 open vacancies - in his attempt to pressure Clinton to yield. Not in 40 years has a Senator blocked all judicial nominations solely for the cause of one prospective nominee.

Overwrought! Award Winner: Family Research Council

      To the most outrageously vitriolic and inaccurate attack on an individual judge for a reasoned decision issued in the course of doing his or her judicial duty.

      By attacking judges with their “Overruled”, “Out of Order”, “Invisible Ink”, and “See No Evil” Awards - the Family Research Council is pestering not jestering. While the Council has every right to pursue its mission of promoting “the traditional family unit and the Judeo-Christian value system upon which it is built” - politically motivated attacks on individual judges compromise our independent judiciary, and threaten our democracy.

    The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonprofit institute devoted to discourse and action on issues of justice central to the jurisprudence of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. The Center is engaged in litigation, public education, and scholarship on judicial independence, campaign finance reform, and poverty law throughout the nation.

    The Center’s Judicial Independence Project combats threats to the independence of the judiciary by defending judges from improper attacks on their rulings, safeguarding the judicial selection process, and fighting unwarranted efforts to constrict judicial jurisdiction and power.