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Activists on Both Sides Mobilize Over Supreme Court Vacancy


Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee have been discussing the possible replacement for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired after serving nearly a quarter century on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the highest court in the country, was often the decisive vote on key issues such as abortion.

The debate began almost immediately as television ads from conservative and liberal groups began flooding American airwaves.

And the Sunday morning talk shows, portrayed a nation divided over issues such as abortion, gay rights and religious freedom.

Many Christian conservatives believe the court has let them down on some issues - including the ban on "Ten Commandments" displays in courthouses.

Pastor Ted Haggard is head of the National Association of Evangelicals. "An independent judiciary is important to maintain, but the judiciary has politicized itself. This is an opportunity to right a ship that's gone awry."

But groups on the left are promising a fight. Tom Matzzie is with Move-On.org, which advocates liberal positions and candidates. "Definitely, if the president tries to replace O'Connor, a moderate, with an extremist, it'll be the biggest fight over the Supreme Court in American History."

Democratic Party members of the senate judiciary committee also urged President George Bush not to nominate a hardline conservative to replace Justice O'Connor.

Senator Joseph Biden had this to say on CBS's "Face the Nation," "The last thing we need in this country is more ideological purity. My Lord, this is a chance for the president to resurrect his second term. This is a chance for him to get back on his game."

But speaking on ABC's "This Week", Republican Party Senator Arlen Specter, who chairs the committee that will confirm a new Supreme Court justice, asked for cooler heads to prevail. "I think that on the very day that Justice O'Connor stepped down before the president had a chance to do anything, except make a conciliatory move on calling both sides in, that we ought to tone down the rhetoric."

Democratic Party Senator Patrick Leahy agrees, "I would urge that the groups on both the right and the left calm down a little bit. Let's see who the nominee is and trust the Judiciary Committee to do a good hearing."

President Bush is not expected to announce his choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy until after he returns from the G8 Summit meeting in Scotland.

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