Following in the footsteps of a successful confirmation vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee for circuit-court nominee Brooks Smith, the White House is focusing conservatives on what may be the next battles.
One potential target for liberals is Lavenski Smith of Arkansas, nominated for an 8th Circuit position. Mr. Smith has a resumé that's sure to touch just about every liberal nerve. In an initial hearing, senators quizzed the native of Bill Clinton's birthplace of Hope, Ark., on his work in the early 1990s heading up an Arkansas chapter of the Rutherford Institute, the legal group that would later represent Clinton accuser Paula Jones. He was also asked about a newspaper interview in which he said he would approach the law from a Christian perspective. Abortion advocates have highlighted his role in the Unborn Child Amendment Committee, which unsuccessfully sought to stop any abortion at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock except to save the life of the mother.
The other nominee the White House urges conservatives to watch is Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who's one of the president's initial group of 11 circuit-court nominees, most of whom are still waiting for a hearing. Justice Owen may come under fire for a pro-business record and a more pro-life voting record than fellow Justice Alberto Gonzales, now the White House counsel. She's also on the board of advisers for the Austin and Houston chapters of the Federalist Society, a mainstream conservative group that liberals regularly call "extreme."
Justice Owen also helped organize the group Family Law 2000, which seeks to educate parents about the effects divorce can have on their children and to lessen the adversarial nature of legal proceedings when a marriage ends. Senate watchers think Mr. Smith could get a vote this summer, but the Senate may continue to stall Justice Owen along with other leading lights in the first Bush batch of nominees.