On February 20, 2004, President Bush installed Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor in a recess appointment to a seat on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A recess appointment does not require Senate confirmation and is valid until the end of the next Congress (January 2006). In January 2005, President Bush renominated Pryor for consideration by the new Congress for a permanent seat on the federal bench.

On November 6, the Senate voted 43-51 (6 senators did not vote) against cloture which would have ended the filibuster against Pryor’s confirmation. A vote of 60 is required to end debate. Democrats filibustered this nominee because of Pryor’s record of extreme opposition to abortion and the separation of religion and state and due to concerns about his involvement in fundraising activities as an attorney general. NCJW opposes Pryor’s confirmation.


Who is William H. Pryor?

  • William H. Pryor, Jr. was born in Mobile, AL, in 1962. He received a BA degree from Northeast Louisiana University in 1984, and a JD from Tulane University School of Law in 1987, both magna cum laude.
  • Pryor served as a law clerk to Judge John Minor Wisdom, US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit from 1987 to 1988. In 1988, he joined the law firm of Cabaniss, Johnston, Gardner, Dumas & O’Neal, where he was an associate until 1991. He then joined the law firm of Walston, Stabler, Wells, Anderson & Bains, where he was an associate from 1991 to 1995.
  • Pryor was also an adjunct professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law from 1989 to 1995.
  • In 1995 Pryor became Deputy Attorney General for the state of Alabama. Since 1997 he has been Alabama’s Attorney General.
      Why does NCJW oppose Pryor's nomination?

  • Pryor is fervently anti-choice. He has called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.” “Abortion is murder,” he told a survey of state attorneys...I support the right to life of every unborn child.” Pryor is an activist against choice, addressing rallies and working against choice in the courts.
  • Pryor has also campaigned to put religion into public life, including the public schools. He vigorously defends posting the Ten Commandments in the Alabama Supreme Court building and referred in one article to the “so-called wall of separation between church and state.”
  • Pryor espouses what he calls competitive federalism, in which “states compete to attract residents and business activity by providing more attractive combinations of legal regimes, government services, and tax bills.” The ability of residents to move, he believes, will discipline state governments much in the same way that consumers can choose a different brand of soap. Setting aside the gross inequities that allow some residents to choose wealthy suburbs with superior schools and other public amenities, while others are trapped in slums and rural poverty, this approach explicitly minimizes the role of the federal government in protecting civil rights and enforcing national standards of health and safety, consumer protections, and workers’ rights, among other matters.
  • Pryor’s intemperance in pursuing his agenda calls into question his ability to act fairly on the bench. Addressing a rally in support of a judge sued for praying and displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, Pryor asserted that “God has chosen, through his son Jesus Christ, this time and this place for all Christians...to save our country and save our courts.” He called the day Roe was decided “the day seven members of our highest court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children.” And he ended one speech with the prayer, “Please God, no more Souters.”

Who else opposes Pryor?

ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights
Alliance for Justice
Americans for Democratic Action
American Jewish Congress
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
B’nai Brith International
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Feminist Majority
Human Rights Campaign
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
NARAL Pro-Choice America
National Abortion Federation
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Organization for Women
People For the American Way
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Service Employees International Union
Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Additional Information:

February 20, 2004
NCJW Appalled by Recess Appointment of William Pryor

May 16, 2003
NCJW Opposes Nomination of Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor to 11th Circuit Court of Appeals