Friday, June 10, 2005
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NYT Pryor Profile: Maybe He's Not a Knuckledragger After All

The New York Times has a surprisingly fair (for the Times) profile of the newest member of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Bill Pryor, summarizing his life and his years in Alabama politics.

A couple of excerpts show why he has earned the respect and admiration of so many Alabamians in both parties.

First, Pryor has always insisted on being honest about his views, even during his confirmation hearings, when he was well aware that complete honesty wasn't necessarily the surest route to confirmation.

When Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, asked Judge Pryor during his confirmation hearing if he regretted the abomination remark [Pryor had said that Roe v. Wade was "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history], he did not take the bait.

"No," the judge replied evenly, "I stand by that comment."

Senators appeared shocked. Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said the room was so quiet "you could hear a pin drop." At that moment, Judge Pryor broke a barrier, daring to talk about what Mr. Schumer described as "fervent personal beliefs" - and clearing the way for future nominees to do so - while advancing the cause of religious conservatives, as he has done his entire adult life.
Secondly, as Alabama's Attorney General, Pryor was known to stick up for the things he knew to be right, regardless of the potential political consequences.

He earned the admiration of state civil rights leaders by becoming the only white statewide official to campaign for the repeal of a provision in the Alabama Constitution barring interracial marriage. "He put his political career on the line," said Alvin Holmes, a black state legislator. "He thought it was racist."...

He pressed to keep a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Alabama state judicial building, yet prosecuted the chief justice, Roy S. Moore, for disobeying a federal court order to remove it.

Even though he was Alabama's youngest Attorney General when he was appointed by then-Governor Fob James, Pryor set a new standard of integrity while he held that office, and I'm confident that he will do the same as a federal judge. I wouldn't be surprised if even a few thoughtful liberals around the country eventually change their minds about Pryor, once they have a chance to see him in action.

There's no doubt that Pryor is a conservative - both politically and legally - but he also recognizes the proper role of the judiciary in our federal republic. That's a quality that should be comforting to liberals and conservatives alike.