In his State of the Union address on February 5th, President Bush said, " Because courts must always deliver impartial justice, judges have a duty to faithfully interpret the law, not legislate from the bench ... the Constitution also gives the Senate a responsibility: Every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote."
The reality of federal appointments is that they are often political in nature, as is the case with Gus Puryear, who is currently under consideration for nomination to the federal bench for the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee. Puryear is a dedicated Republican supporter, having previously worked under Republican Senators Bill Frist and Fred Thompson. In addition he has served as Dick Cheney's advisor prior to the 2000 election. Federal judges, who are supposed to be impartial, should not be as partisan as reflected by Puryear's record.
Although technically qualified for the job, the US Senate should vote thumbs down on Puryear's nomination. Puryear would have a conflict of interest in regard to all litigation involving the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), his former employer. CCA has made Puryear a multi-millionaire which would seriously compromise Puryear's ability to make fair decisions regarding CCA, which is based in Nashville. CCA has been involved in hundreds of cases naming CCA or CCA employees in federal court, including cases involving deaths or abuse of prisoners while in CCA custody.
Fundamental to the expansion of the prison industrial complex in America is the role that private prisons have played in the growth that industry. At the heart of the prison privatization movement is Tennessee's home grown Corrections Corporation of America, CCA, the nation's largest private prison company. In a criminal justice system in which millions of Americans are incarcerated, on parole or on probation, the profits of privatization are tempting to many investors. The danger of excessive privatization is a fundamental conflict of interest between the investor and the government.
The current nomination of Gustavus A. Puryear to the federal judgeship for U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Tennessee presents a clear conflict of interest. Puryear was CCA's general counsel and would hold a judgeship in the same district where CCA's corporate office is located, where numerous lawsuits against CCA are filed. The top lawyer for the nation's largest private prison company is ill suited to serve as a federal judge. In an ideal world, there would be no prisons. The role that prisons play in segregating those who have violated the laws of the society is a path of last resort for the state and for society. In the real world, investments and profits drive the economy, thus setting up a fundamental conflict between the role of private industry and the interests of the state.
As a federal candidate I support ending all federal funding for Tennessee based Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison corporation, whose multiple failures to properly house, feed, and care for prisoners is well documented. I support the re-introduction of programs eliminated by previous administrations such as education, job training, general education equivalency programs and college level educational access. Instead of supporting partisan federal judges who will only contribute to the growing privatization of the prison economy, it is time for us as a society to invest in social programs which improve the quality of life for everyone and offer those incarcerated a real opportunity at a successful re-integration into mainstream society.
Chris Lugo for US Senate
9 Music Sq So #164
Nashville, TN 37203