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It may be no surprise that Republicans in the Senate are pushing for an up-or-down vote on Priscilla Owen. After all, the Texas judge historically has come out on top when the votes are counted. In 1994, Owen, a Republican, ran a successful state campaign for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court. In 2000, she ran for re-election and won again. If eventually confirmed by the Senate as one of President George W. Bush’s picks for the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Owen will enjoy the life tenure of a federal judge. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) took Owen’s nomination to the Senate floor for three days of debate in order to push Republicans and Democrats toward a confrontation over the Democrats’ use of the filibuster to block Bush’s judicial nominees. Senate Democrats and liberal interest groups have routinely branded Owen as an unacceptable candidate for the 5th Circuit bench. Before joining the Texas high court, Owen was a partner at Houston’s Andrews & Kurth, where she practiced for 17 years. She earned her J.D. from Baylor University School of Law in 1977, graduating first in her class. “Her pedigree in terms of intellectual ability is excellent,” says Austin, Texas, lawyer Doug Alexander. Lubbock, Texas, appellate lawyer Don Hunt, says Owen comes to oral arguments well-prepared. “She’s a precise questioner,” he says. “She couldn’t be that way unless she had done her homework and studied.” At the same time, the nomination of the 50-year-old former commercial litigator concerns some plaintiffs lawyers, who perceive her as too business-oriented. “I believe she’s a legal activist who struggles with her pro-business-oriented background,” says Robert Hilliard, a lawyer in Corpus Christi, Texas. In high-profile litigation, Owen has favored strict enforcement of a Texas abortion notification law, signed by then-Gov. Bush in 1999. The law requires that parents be notified before a minor can have an abortion � unless a judge finds that notification is not in the minor’s best interests. Owen repeatedly joined the dissents in the notification cases, wanting to make it more difficult for an underage girl to get a judicial bypass. In one case, the majority decided in favor of a 17-year-old high school senior who requested an abortion without notifying her parents. In her dissent, Owen said the majority “acted irresponsibly” by approving a judicial bypass based on the girl’s claim that her parents would disapprove of her if they learned she was pregnant and probably would stop supporting her financially. “In other words, ignorance is bliss, or at least parental ignorance is filial bliss; what the folks don’t know won’t hurt them � and more importantly won’t hurt their kids,” Owen wrote. “This is a tragically distorted view of parental authority, individual responsibility and family relationships.” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who spearheaded Bush’s search for judicial nominees while White House counsel during Bush’s first term, sided with the majority in supporting the more-lenient standard for judicial bypasses when Gonzales was a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. “Judges disagree all the time on cases,” Gonzales said May 20 at a National Press Club luncheon. “The fact that I disagreed with Judge Owen on this case or other cases doesn’t detract from my own view that she is well-qualified and deserves to serve on the 5th Circuit.” This article is an updated version of a profile of Owen that ran in 2001 in Texas Lawyer , an ALM publication where Mary Alice Robbins is a senior reporter.

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