was a law student in California, a mentor who would later become
my boss asked me what I knew about a fairly new California Supreme
Court Justice named Janice Brown.
"Nothing," I had to admit sheepishly.
I'd never heard of her. But I knew that if such a question was
coming from this mentor-a person whose ideological compass points
unfailingly in the direction of individual rights-Brown had
to be worth checking out.
Several years later, Justice Janice Brown has
indeed proven herself worth checking out and, what is more,
deserving of a ringing endorsement. Since Governor Pete Wilson
appointed her to California's highest court in 1996, Brown has
been a consistent defender of Californians' property rights,
economic liberty, and freedom of speech.
Brown wrote a searing dissent in Aguilar v.
Avis Rent-A-Car System , a case in which the California Court
instituted an unprecedented prior restraint on speech (essentially,
singling out certain words and banning their use in the workplace
under any circumstances). In a "friend of the court"
brief, the supposed guardians of freedom of expression at the
ACLU gleefully championed the speech ban, arguing that the right
to "equal treatment at work" permits "some limits
on the unrestrained speech of bigots in the work place."
Brown, however, proved the true protector of liberty, warning
that the decision "would create the exception that swallowed
the First Amendment."
In her dissenting opinion in Gallant v. City
of Clovis , Brown eloquently chastised her fellow members of
the court for giving property rights the cold shoulder. She
aptly pointed out, "The Constitution bespeaks no hierarchy
of rights, no preferences with respect to its restraints on
government action, no partiality among its protections of liberty."
All the more reason to cry foul, then, when the majority of
the court "consigns economic rights to a secondary status
that can only reflect opposition to the balance the framers
carefully struck between public and private power."
Janice Brown is perhaps best known, however,
for her principled insistence on the government's equal treatment
of its citizens, regardless of race. In her majority opinion
in Hi-Voltage Wireworks v. City of San Jose , Brown upheld California's
notorious Proposition 209-a ballot initiative that banned government
racial preferences-and struck down a San Jose ordinance requiring
government contractors to seek bids from companies owned by
women and minorities. Brown concluded that "equality of
individual opportunity"-not affirmative action-is what
the Constitution requires.
And one has to conclude that Brown, a black
sharecropper's daughter who worked her way up from a childhood
in the segregated south to a position on the highest court of
the country's largest state, knows whereof she speaks.
Now, President Bush has nominated Brown to
a seat on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and her
confirmation hearing is rapidly approaching. But liberal activists
are trying vehemently to block her nomination, no doubt well
aware that if Brown is elevated to a federal appeals court,
she has an excellent chance at eventually landing a spot on
the United States Supreme Court. And this would be a serious
blow to liberal special-interest groups -- such as People for
the American Way -- one of Brown's most vocal detractors.
A Brown seat on the Supreme Court would mean
one more vote for a jurisprudence of true equal rights, rather
than one of forced racial and sex preferences. What poetic justice
such a vote for freedom would be, coming as it would from an
articulate black female jurist.
It's almost too much for the racial preferences
crowd to bear, which explains their ongoing efforts to keep
Brown off the DC Court of Appeals and the momentous fight they
are waging to scuttle her nomination. But if any judicial nominee
is worth fighting for, it is Janice Rogers Brown.
So, let us all now call on the Bush White House
to undertake the most vigorous battle possible to ensure that
this extraordinary nominee is confirmed and that our fundamental
rights, as envisaged by the framers, are preserved.
It is an effort that both Justice Brown and
the American people deserve.
If you would like to help support Justice Brown's
nomination, make your views known to your senators. Let's not
let this one get away!
is an attorney, Toronto-based journalist, and Associate Editor
of The Iconocast.
She is a weekly columnist for The
American Enterprise Online, where this article first appeared
in a slightly different form. Copyright 2003, American Enterprise
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