Senators Block Industry Lobbyist from Lifetime Judicial Post

Action Will Protect Environment, Long-Term Interests of All Americans, Says NRDC

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2004) - The American people won a major victory today when Senate Republicans failed to force a vote on the nomination of former industry lobbyist William G. Myers III to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, said NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council).

The Senate voted against a proposal to end debate, denying Myers' supporters the 60 votes needed to bring his nomination to the floor.

The nomination of Myers, who has spent nearly his entire professional life representing the narrow interests of Western mining companies and cattle ranchers, generated strong opposition from a record number of Native American tribes and conservation groups. Ninth Circuit judges review federal cases and regulations pertaining to the American West, Alaska and Hawaii.

"Seats on federal courts are not party favors to be handed out to industry lobbyists," said David McIntosh, an NRDC staff attorney. "The Senate has rightfully remained steadfast in denying Myers a lifetime license to work against the public interest as a federal judge."

Before President Bush tapped Myers to be the Interior Department's top lawyer in 2001, he served as corporate counsel for Cattlemen Advocating Through Litigation and worked for mining, timber and oil companies. Advocating for his clients, he once compared the federal government's management of public lands to King George III of England's "tyrannical" rule over the American colonies. And when Congress expanded the Death Valley National Monument and created the Mohave National Preserve, Myers called it "legislative hubris" even though the land at issue is public property and Congress allowed livestock grazing on those lands to continue indefinitely. He also once filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that federal regulation of land use is beyond congressional authority. He lost.

Myers continued to advance his former clients' interests as the Interior Department's solicitor. For example, he issued a legal opinion declaring that the Interior Department could ignore a congressional mandate to prevent excessive degradation on public lands on the grounds that the degradation in question was the unavoidable result of a gold mining company's cyanide heap-leach project. The mining company had met with Interior Department officials in the weeks leading up to Myers' ruling, but neither Myers nor anyone else at the department met with the Quechan tribe, whose sovereign lands were threatened by the mine. A federal court later held that Myers' opinion ignored well-established principles of legal interpretation and flouted the federal Land Policy and Management Act.

"Myers has used his position at the Interior Department to promote the interests of his former business clients," McIntosh said. "And he has shown disdain for federal legislators whose enactments judges must honor and enforce. His record is unambiguous, and we applaud the senators who stood up today and said no."