WASHINGTON – A former Ohio solicitor general known for taking on disabilities cases is a "committed activist" who would curtail the rights of the disabled as an U.S. Appeals Court judge, a Democratic senator complained Monday.
"Jeff Sutton would not give a fair shake to people with disabilities if they walked into his courtroom" Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa said as the Senate considered Sutton's nomination to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But Sutton's defenders called him "one of the finest appellate lawyers in the United States."
People who question Sutton "will no doubt attest to Mr. Sutton's keen intellect, his even temperament and the depth of his legal knowledge," said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio. "These attributes demonstrate why Jeffrey Sutton is one of the finest appellate lawyers in the United States today and why he will be an excellent federal judge."
Sutton has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, which covers federal appeals from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.
A final vote on the nomination is expected on Tuesday, and "I would expect that he would pass," Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said last week.
Democratic senators have criticized Sutton for attempts to limit federal civil rights protections and gut or weaken protections for state employees with disabilities and older workers.
The Columbus, Ohio, lawyer argued successfully in a Supreme Court case in 2000 that Congress exceeded its authority by permitting state workers to sue their states under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Sutton told the Senate Judiciary Committee at his January confirmation hearing that he would be fair as a judge and asked them not to hold his previous work as a lawyer against him as a judicial nominee.
"I'm trying very hard to show you that I would be an objective judge and that the client I would have is ... the rule of law, not a former client," Sutton said then.