Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Karen Williams RetiresJul 10, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, we explained why the vote of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold Virginia's ban on partial birth abortion was so close (read here). It was a 6-5 vote from what is — or was — considered the most constitutionally sound appeals court in the country. Former President George W. Bush mismanaged his appointments to the court and was outmaneuvered by Senate liberals, not to mention sabotaged by "moderate" Republicans. Those who prayed for the just outcome of the court on the partial birth ban might not know how truly their prayers were answered: Only a few weeks after the ruling was handed down, Chief Judge Karen Williams, who voted in the majority in that decision, has resigned from the court because of health problems brought on by the early stages of Alzheimer's (see Richmond Times-Dispatch). Now we need to pray again, for what surely will be her mountainous struggle.
As sad as this development is for Judge Williams, it is a fact of life that her seat must be filled — along with the four vacancies Mr. Bush failed to fill. With those four, President Barack Obama already had the opportunity of a lifetime to completely flip one of the nation's most important courts (one level below the Supreme Court). Now, with a super majority in the Senate and five vacancies, a 6-5 conservative majority could very well become a 10-5 liberal domination for several years to come.