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The ideological fight over the federal judiciary spread to Georgia, Florida and Alabama Wednesday when President Bush nominated Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor Jr. to a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court covers those three states. Pryor’s conservative legal and political positions on states’ rights, abortion, church-state separation and a host of crime and punishment issues drew immediate criticism from some of the same groups that have opposed many of Bush’s other circuit court nominees. Alliance For Justice, an association of liberal environmental, civil rights, mental health, women’s, children’s and consumer advocacy organizations, issued a statement Wednesday that said, “With Pryor’s record, there’s something to offend virtually every constituency in the country.” But Pryor’s chief supporter, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., countered with a list of instances in which Pryor opposed a Republican voting rights plan, a Republican school prayer proposal and a broad ban on partial birth abortion because, in his view, all three violated U.S. Supreme Court precedents. “As a circuit judge, Bill Pryor will act on principle, not politics,” Sessions said in a press release. Pryor was Sessions’ top deputy when Sessions was Alabama’s attorney general. Pryor’s nomination comes as the renewed Republican majority has attempted, with mixed success, to push through the president’s most controversial bench choices. Since February, a filibuster supported by most Senate Democrats has blocked a vote on the nomination of appellate lawyer Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit. But in February, the Judiciary Committee approved Ohio appellate expert Jeffrey S. Sutton, whose 6th Circuit nomination had languished since Bush tapped him in May 2001. Notably, Sutton received a vote from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a moderate Democrat from California whose backing of Sutton suggests Democrats might have a hard time supporting a filibuster. FOES LINK TWO NOMINEES Sutton’s experience could indicate what sort of treatment Pryor will get, because liberal civil rights groups based their opposition to Sutton largely on legal work he did for Pryor. Pryor hired Sutton to represent Alabama in arguing that federal laws prohibiting discrimination by age, disability or national origin violated the Constitution’s protection of states from suits. In all three cases, their arguments were approved by identical 5-4 majorities at the U.S. Supreme Court. Pryor’s views on abortion — he was quoted in 1997 as saying Roe v. Wade “ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children” — also could cause trouble. When Pryor’s name surfaced for the 11th Circuit in January, an abortion rights representative said she was “deeply concerned” about the potential nomination. But a Pryor supporter said then that despite his personal opposition to abortion, Pryor would accept Roe v. Wade as settled law. Pryor has not shied from other hot-button issues. In 1999, he successfully challenged a federal court order that prohibited public school officials from allowing any type of prayers at graduation or commencement exercises. In a speech to the Christian Coalition, Pryor said the victory promoted “the perspective of our Founding Fathers that we derive our rights from God and not from government.” Sessions said in a press release that Pryor once broke with then-Alabama Gov. Fob James — who had tapped Pryor for his AG post — when James argued that public school teachers could lead their students in prayer. The release added that Pryor instructed school districts that U.S. Supreme Court precedents did not allow teachers to lead students in prayer, but they did allow voluntary, student-led prayer. On another religion front, Pryor has been a longtime supporter of Alabama Chief Justice Roy S. Moore and his efforts to display the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building. Last year, a federal judge said the monument violated the First Amendment’s prohibition of state-established religion and ordered it removed. Moore is appealing to the 11th Circuit. On crime and punishment issues, Pryor may be best-known for last year’s decision in Hope v. Pelzer, 122 S. Ct. 2508. In that case, a 6-3 court rejected Pryor’s argument that Alabama prison guards were entitled to qualified immunity for their actions in punishing a prisoner by handcuffing him twice to a hitching post while the prisoner was assigned to chain gang duty. TULANE LAW GRADUATE A native of Mobile, Ala., Pryor graduated from Northeast Louisiana University and Tulane University School of Law. He was editor of the law review and founder of the Tulane Federalist Society, a legal group popular among conservatives such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Attorney General John Ashcroft, as well as many of Bush’s judicial picks. Pryor’s first legal job was working for the late 5th Circuit Judge John Minor Wisdom, a relative liberal who earned a heroic reputation implementing desegregation rulings across the Deep South. Pryor’s office issued a statement on Wednesday in which he said, “I am honored that President Bush has nominated me to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. I look forward to the confirmation process of the U.S. Senate. In the meantime, I will continue to strive, as Attorney General, to represent the people of Alabama, with integrity, to the best of my ability by upholding the Constitution and laws of our Nation and State.”

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