HEADLINE: PANEL I OF A HEARING OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: NOMINATION OF WILLIAM PRYOR JR. TO BE U.S. CIRCUIT JUDGE FOR THE 11TH CIRCUIT
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR ORRIN HATCH (R-UT)
WITNESSES: ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM PRYOR JR. (R-AL)
SEN. HATCH: Senator Chambliss
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, normally I don't make statements when we have nominees under consideration, but Attorney General Pryor happens to be a neighbor to my state and is very well thought of, very well respected by my attorney general, who I have great respect for.
And this nomination also is to the circuit that serves and covers my state of Georgia, and there are certain things that I'd like to put in the record.
Mr. Chairman, this is a very impressive nominee, so I do appreciate the opportunity to voice my strong support for the nomination of Alabama's distinguished attorney general, Bill Pryor, to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. His legal intellect is unmatched, and he has a zeal for the law that is unquestioned, as we've already seen by the questions that have been asked of him today.
After graduating at the top of his class at Tulane Law School, where he served as editor in chief of the law review, he practiced a number of years at two of Alabama's most prestigious law firms, specializing in commercial and employment litigation.
He then served under our distinguished colleague, Senator Jeff Sessions, in the Alabama attorney general's office as deputy attorney general in charge of civil and constitutional matters. Without question, Attorney General Pryor has the legal capacity to serve on the 11th Circuit. Yet, Mr. Chairman, to my surprise, there are some detractors here today. I'm surprised not only because of Attorney General Pryor's excellent qualifications, but especially given the ringing pledge of support from Thurbert Baker, the Democratic attorney general from my state of Georgia.
Attorney General Baker was first appointed in 1997 to his position by then governor of Georgia now our esteemed colleague Senator Zell Miller. Attorney General Baker has since been reelected twice by the people of my state. He has a perspective unique from any of those who oppose Attorney General Pryor here today, because he's worked right beside Attorney General Pryor on issues of great concern to both our respective states and to this nation. Attorney General Baker's bipartisan support for Bill Pryor represents a belief of the chief law enforcement officer of the state of Georgia that this nominee possesses the qualities and experiences needed to serve the people of Georgia on the 11th Circuit. In a letter written to Senators Sessions and Shelby, Attorney General Baker had high praise for Mr. Pryor. I'd now like to share a few of those comments to the committee. Mr. Chairman, I also ask that Attorney General Baker's letter be added to the record at this point in time.
SEN. HATCH: Without objection, it will be.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: In his letter, Attorney General Baker states, "Bill has distinguished himself time and again with the legal acumen that he brings to issues of national or regional concern as well as with his commitment to furthering the prospects of good and responsive government."
Thurbert Baker also lauded Attorney General Pryor's positions on crime, saying, "Bill has made combatting white collar crime and public corruption one of the centerpieces of his service to the people of Alabama. Bill has fought to keep law enforcement in Alabama armed with appropriate laws to protect Alabama's citizens, pushing for tough money laundering provisions and stiff penalties for trafficking in date rape drugs. Time and again as attorney general, Bill has taken on public corruption cases in Alabama regardless of how well connected the defendant may be to ensure that the public trust is upheld and the public's confidence in government is well founded."
Again, I quote Attorney General Baker: "He has always done what he thought was best for the people of Alabama. Recognizing a wrong that had gone on far too long, he took the opportunity of his inaugural address to call on an end to the ban on interracial marriages in Alabama law. Concerned about at-risk kids in Alabama schools, he formed Mentor Alabama, a program designed to pair volunteer mentors with students who needed a role model and an attentive ear to the problems facing them on a daily basis."
Again, Thurbert Baker concludes in his letter, "These are just a few of the qualities that I believe will make Bill Pryor an excellent candidate for a slot on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. My only regret is that I will no longer have Bill as a fellow attorney general fighting for what is right. But I know that his work on the bench will continue to serve as an example of how the public trust should be upheld."
Mr. Chairman, those are not positions that people in the deep South necessarily have adhered to over the years. And I think it's remarkable that a man of Attorney General Pryor's stature would take on those tough subjects. And I could not agree more with my state's attorney general: a close review of Attorney General Pryor's record demonstrates that he has been a champion for justice.
In the area of crime prevention and administration of justice in Alabama, Bill Pryor has been a fair and impartial leader for all citizens of his state, making his decisions based on the law and not politics. He has fought corruption by cracking down on dishonest government employees of all political ideologies. He established a new division in the attorney general's office designed to specifically investigate, prosecute and defend Alabamans from public corruption and white collar crime, problems that plague every single state. He even secured the conviction and imprisonment of a Republican former director of the Alabama Department of Transportation and two lobbyists on bribery charges.
His crackdown on corruption in statewide politics was saluted by the Montgomery Advertiser as having a, quote, "absence of partisanship," as he had successfully targeted Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites for ballot fraud.
In addition to working to eliminate corruption in Alabama, Attorney General Pryor has been a staunch supporter of reforming Alabama's criminal justice system to make it fairer, with heightened standards of honesty and compassion. He's fought to modernize the state's criminal sentencing system by instituting a state sentencing commission to ensure that similar crimes result in similar punishments. He has advocated and created alternative programs, such as drug courts and substance abuse treatment, which emphasize victim resolution and community restoration for first-time nonviolent offenders. He has endorsed the Prison Rape Reduction Act sponsored by our fellow Judiciary Committee members, Senators Kennedy and Sessions.
Most importantly, Attorney General Pryor has made a difference in the lives of countless young children in Alabama by creating Mentor Alabama. This program is designed to reduce juvenile crime by introducing adults into the lives of children who need them most. Mentor Alabama -- under Mentor Alabama, adult volunteers serve as mentors, tutors and role models. Mentor Alabama has been so successful that it has been designated as the official Alabama affiliate of the National Mentoring Partnership, a partner of the America's Promise program founded by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Attorney General Pryor not only implements these society-changing programs, he believes in them enough to get involved at the ground level. To this end, he has personally served as a mentor to a public school student in Montgomery for over three years.
As attorney general, he has also been a champion for women in the state of Alabama, by dedicating himself to furthering the cause of women's rights and improving the lives of women. He has sought to protect women from the scourge of domestic violence while fighting to bring to justice those who would commit such atrocities. He has a key -- he was a key proponent in the year 2000, when the crime of domestic violence was enacted in Alabama. General Pryor has advocated increase in the penalties for repeat offenders who violate protection orders. Now in Alabama, second-time offenders face a mandatory sentence of 30 days in prison, and further violations will result in mandatory three- month prison terms. Attorney General Pryor supported passage of a law that now requires that those arrested for domestic violence in Alabama stay behind bars until the safety of the victims and society can be assured.
In other efforts to improve the legal protections available to women, Attorney General Pryor pushed to add the date rape drug GHB to Alabama's drug trafficking statute so that the punishment would meet the crime. Attorney General Pryor also helped create innovative programs designed to improve the lives of Alabama women.
Using money awarded from the state from a class action settlement, he funded Cut It Out, a program that helps encourage victims of domestic violence to seek help. This program seeks to educate the very people who are often confidantes for battered women, such as their hair stylist, on how to spot abuse and help victims.
He has also been a dedicated supporter of Penelope House, the first shelter designated for battered women and their children in the state of Alabama.
Last year, Attorney General Pryor had the honor of being inducted in the Penelope House Law Enforcement Hall of Fame in recognition of his fight against domestic violence.
I've heard it argued that Attorney General Pryor is against the voting rights of some people simply because he disagrees with certain procedural provisions of the Voting Rights Act. The truth about Bill Pryor and voting rights -- and the voting rights record is that he has done nothing but dutifully enforced all of the Voting Rights Act. He has simply stated that there are some procedural provisions in the act that need fixing. Well, I agree with that. The attorney general of my state agrees with that. And minority legislators in Alabama and in Georgia agree with that. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has some serious problems that inhibit the very goal the act was designed to accomplish: the empowerment of minority voters. As the head attorney for the state of Alabama, though, he is constrained to enforce the law as it is written and interpreted by the courts, and that is exactly what Attorney General Pryor has done.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Bill Pryor is a superb candidate, graduating at the top of his class from Tulane Law School, where he served as editor in chief of the Law Review, the highest honor one can receive in law school. A fair review of his record shows that he has used his gifted abilities to serve the people of Alabama and this country. He'll make an excellent judge, and I am proud to support his nomination to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. And I thank you.