Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor got a long-awaited appointment to the federal bench Wednesday, but it's unclear whether his political stands and experience will help or hinder him. Pryor is an outspoken opponent of abortion rights and has argued against a lawsuit that challenged Alabama's antigay sodomy law.
Pryor's nomination to the 11th circuit court of appeals in Atlanta--which handles appellate cases for Alabama, Florida, and Georgia--had been expected since January, when Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced that President Bush was eyeing Pryor for the job. Bush made the selection official Wednesday, and Pryor, 40, indicated in a brief statement that he would accept.
"I look forward to the confirmation process of the U.S. Senate," said Pryor, a Republican who last November was elected to his second two-year term as the state's top judicial official. "In the meantime, I will continue to strive, as attorney general, to represent the people of Alabama with integrity to the best of my ability by upholding the Constitution and laws of our nation and state."
It could take months for Pryor's nomination to work its way through the confirmation process. The first step will likely be a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, in which Sessions occupies an influential post. Sessions and Alabama's senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby, gave Pryor a ringing endorsement, but Sessions conceded that Pryor's political activity and outspoken opposition to abortion rights could make him a target of liberals. "The fact he has written and made speeches does mean the people out there trying to find a basis to object to nominees might find something," said Sessions, whose own nomination to the federal bench was scuttled by Democrats several years ago. "These people will comb through everything he's written and said."
Pryor was first appointed as Alabama's attorney general in January 1997, when Sessions, his predecessor, was elected to the Senate. Pryor graduated from Tulane Law School and was a law clerk for U.S. circuit court judge John Minor Wisdom. He has experience in private practice in Birmingham and in 1995 was hired as Sessions's deputy attorney general in charge of special civil and constitutional litigation.