On May 25, 2005, the Senate voted 56-43 to confirm the nomination of Justice Priscilla R. Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. This confirmation followed a cloture vote of 81-18 on May 24 which ended the filibuster on Owen's nomination, a move that was part of a bipartisan deal to avoid a change in Senate rules with regard to filibusters, also known as the "nuclear option."

Justice Owen's nomination was rejected by the previous two Congresses, yet President Bush renominated her in February 2005 for consideration by the current Congress. Her nomination was originally defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 5, 2002. President Bush nominated her again on January 7, 2003. A second hearing was held on March 13, 2003. On November 14, 2004, following 39 hours of contentious debate on several nominees, the Senate voted 42-53 (5 senators did not vote) against cloture which would have ended the filibuster against Owen's nomination. A vote of 60 is required to end debate. To date, four cloture votes on Owen's nomination have failed. Justice Owen's responses at both of the hearings held on her nomination supported her record of hostility to reproductive rights, particularly the rights of young women seeking abortions. NCJW opposes Owen's confirmation.

Who is Justice Priscilla Owen?

  • Justice Owen was born in 1954 in Palacios, TX. She earned a BA at Baylor University in 1975 and JD at Baylor University School of Law in 1977.
  • From 1978-1984, she was an associate at the Houston law firm of Andrew, Kurth, Campbell & Jones (now known as Andrews & Kurth). She became a partner in the firm in 1985.
  • In 1994, Owen was elected as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court. She was re-elected in 2000.
  • Justice Owen is a member of the Federalist Society, an ultra-conservative legal group. The Federalist Society was formed to counter what it calls "orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society," which the group believes dominates law schools and the legal profession. Justice Owen is described by the Texas Lawyer as part of a bloc that "anchors the conservative end" of a very conservative state supreme court.
      Why does NCJW oppose Justice Owen's nomination?

Justice Owen has demonstrated her hostility to reproductive rights in several parental notification cases. Although Texas law provides that a minor may request judicial permission to bypass notification of her parent/s in seeking an abortion, Justice Owen wrote that in addition, judges ought to decide whether the abortion itself were in a minor's best interest. In six different cases, she voted to deny a teenaged girl permission to forego parental notification prior to seeking an abortion. In one such case, she objected strenuously to the majority's effort to expedite such a case, even though a timely decision meant the minor could undergo a simpler abortion procedure than if the decision were delayed. Her objections were cited by then-fellow conservative Texas Supreme Court justice Alberto Gonzales as "an unconscionable act of judicial activism." Gonzales is now United States Attorney General.

Who else opposes Justice Owen?

Alliance for Justice
American Association of University Women
Americans for Democratic Action
Feminist Majority
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Abortion Federation
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women's Law Center
People For the American Way
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
(list in progress)

Additional Information:

May 25, 2005
NCJW Expresses Dismay over Confirmation of Justice Owen to the 5th Circuit

May 12, 2005
NCJW Denounces Committee Approval of Extreme Nominees

November 12, 2003
NCJW Denounces Senate Marathon Session on Judicial Nominations

January 7, 2003
NCJW Expresses Grave Disappointment Over Renomination of Pickering and Owen

September 5, 2002
NCJW Applauds Rejection of Priscilla Owen for Fifth Circuit Court

July 12, 2002
NCJW National President Urges Senator Leahy to Oppose Confirmation of Justice Priscilla R. Owen