Monday, May 16, 2005

What A Surprise

From the New York Times:

Justice Priscilla R. Owen of the Texas Supreme Court declined a chance to be the court’s first female chief justice last year so she could remain one of President Bush’s nominees to a federal appeals court, Texas lawyers and political figures said in recent interviews.

The decision was one of three crucial moments in her judicial career in which she seemed to have been guided by the hand of Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s chief political strategist.


Justice Owen was, by all accounts, a respected but little-known lawyer in Houston in 1994 when she was first elected to the State Supreme Court with Mr. Rove’s support and tutelage. Her experience up to then largely involved obscure legal cases involving pipelines and federal energy regulations.

At the time, Mr. Rove was helping to make over the Texas Supreme Court from a bench populated by Democrats widely viewed as favorable to the plaintiffs’ bar – the lawyers who sue companies – to the business-friendly Republican stronghold it is today.


When Mr. Bush was first elected to the White House, Mr. Rove again chose Ms. Owen, by then a justice on the Texas Supreme Court for nearly a decade, to be among the president’s first appeals court candidates, administration and Congressional officials said. In doing so, the officials said, Mr. Rove had to disagree with Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel and now attorney general. Mr. Gonzales had served on the Texas Supreme Court with Justice Owen and while he liked her greatly, he had preferred another member of the court, Justice Deborah Hankinson, for the federal court seat.

Mr. Rove’s third intervention came last year when the state’s chief justice retired and Gov. Rick Perry privately offered to nominate Justice Owen to the post, senior Texas Republicans said in interviews. Justice Owen, whose nomination to the federal appeals court had been blocked by a Democratic filibuster, called Mr. Rove for advice before declining; some Republican political figures said he told her to turn down the post and remain ready and available for the current battle, while another Republican said Mr. Rove told her that it was her choice, but that she still had a chance at the federal court seat. The Texas Republicans who spoke about Mr. Rove’s role would not allow their names to be published because they are still active in politics.

It would be an event if it was learned that Karl Rove wasn’t involved in the selection of every candidate for the bench. Or any appointment, for that matter.