Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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The work of Chicago-based writer Stephanie B. Goldberg has appeared in Business Week, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and many other publications. She is a former senior editor of the ABA Journal and writes for a number of ABA magazines.

For a Woman to Get that Federal Court Nomination, Does She Have to be Scalia in a Skirt?

The Case of Carolyn Kuhl

Another major procedural change is the attempt to limit the veto power of Democratic senators from the nominee's home state. Previously, if the opposition party's home-state senators did not support the nomination, it would die in committee. Not any more. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) has been a vocal critic of Carolyn Kuhl, a state court judge who was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In another era, Kuhl would have been dead in the water, but she too has been renominated and is likely to win confirmation.

Boxer has explained her opposition in detail. "Her record is filled with examples of her advocating for the powerful against the powerless," she stated in a letter to the Recorder a San Francisco legal newspaper. As a young attorney in the Reagan justice department, Kuhl wrote memos urging the overturning of Roe v. Wade. When in private practice, she wrote a friend-of-the-court brief urging that counselors in federally funded planning services be barred from even mentioning abortion.

As a Los Angeles County trial judge, Kuhl wrote an opinion that surpasses even these in its disregard for privacy rights, ruling that bringing a drug company salesman into the room when a cancer patient was having her breasts examined-- without letting her know that he wasn't a physician-- was not intrusive enough to violate her privacy. Kuhl, who has been rated well qualified by the ABA, was reversed by the California Court of Appeal, which tartly observed: "A breast cancer patient who goes into an oncologist's office to be examined does not, nor should she, take a risk that ... a drug salesperson will be a part of the process...."

Boxer stated in her letter that she wrote the White House "suggesting three mainstream Republicans who would make excellent circuit court judges and who would have my full support. Those suggestions have been ignored, although the Constitution demands that the Senate have advice and consent role on judges, a provision that I take very seriously."

Along with Kuhl and Owen, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook also has been renominated for the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The prospect of her deciding federal discrimination cases has galvanized local plaintiffs' lawyers. A study of her record found she has ruled in favor of employers 83 percent of the time, says Frederick Gittes, president of the National Employment Lawyers Association. "Her hostile and extreme views concerning laws governing the workplace have no place on the federal bench," he says.

Looking Beyond Gender

To those who say that feminists ought to be heartened to have gender representation on the bench even if they're getting Scalia in a skirt, Isabelle Katz Pinzler, Special Counsel to the NOW Legal and Educational Fund, has an answer: "I would rather have a pro-civil rights, pro-choice man than most of these women in terms of how they're going to decide cases," she says. "Diversity is important, but it's not the only consideration."

Ultimately, if you're offering up judges that look like America but think like Wall Street, you're playing fast and loose with democracy. "If courts are perceived as being governed by political ideology, they lose public support and are no longer seen as an independent branch of government," says Goldman. "They're just an arm of the regime."

Unfortunately, that seems to be what the current regime is after.

Take Action

President Bush's changes in appointment procedure make it far easier for the executive branch to tranform the federal court system-- judge by judge-- into a long-lasting instrument of political ideology.

Don't let Bush stack the courts with anti-abortion justices!
Donate today to the Feminist Majority Foundation's Never Go Back campaign.

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009