WASHINGTON – The Senate on Tuesday approved a former Ohio solicitor general for a seat on the U.S. Appeals Court despite protests from disabled persons who say Jeff Sutton (search) worked to curtail their rights.
By a 52-41 vote, Sutton was approved for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) in Cincinnati, which handles appeals from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.
The vote came after about 150 disabled activists crowded into a room at the U.S. Capitol and urged lawmakers to vote against Sutton.
"I need you out there reminding every senator who you see ... a vote for Jeffrey Sutton is a vote to undo the Americans with Disability Act (search)," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, (search) told the cheering crowd.
Sutton's supporters say he is well qualified.
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 (search). "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."
Democratic senators have criticized Sutton for attempts to limit federal civil rights protections and to 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.
"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," he said then.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., also announced that he will try "sometime this week or next" to force a confirmation vote on Priscilla Owen (search), a Texas judge who wants a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Democrats have called her an anti-abortion, pro-business judicial activist whose opinions and rulings are overly influenced by her personal beliefs. They have not said whether they will try to block Owen's confirmation.