Judge Alice Moore Batchelder serves on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and is widely regarded by friends and colleagues as someone who applies the law and believes that judges do not make laws.
"There have been a lot of times in my years as a judge where I didn't like the outcome that the law required, but it was not my place to substitute my policy choice for that of the legislatures that drafted those laws, to impose will instead of judgment," Batchelder said in a speech last month. "Instead, my job -- as we used to describe it in my chambers -- was to hold my nose and decide. And I did that, I'm still doing that, I'm about to do it again."
Born in Wilmington, Del., Batchelder, 61, was raised in Ohio in what one published report described as a modest home where her parents baked bread to sell to neighbors during the Great Depression.
A former English teacher who still has a penchant for words, Batchelder earned her bachelor's degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1964 and her law degree in 1971 from Akron University School of Law, where she was editor in chief of the law review in a class with only six women. She also earned her master's in law from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1988.
Batchelder worked in private practice in her hometown of Medina, Ohio, which is south of Cleveland, for 12 years. She then was a U.S. bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Ohio from 1982 to 1985, when she was appointed by President Reagan to be a U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Ohio. She held that post until January 1992 when she was appointed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President George H.W. Bush.
As a circuit court judge, Batchelder was described by the National Review as "a voice of reason on the oft-contentious" court and as an expert in business law from her experience with securities cases and bankruptcy court.
Peter W. Schramm, executive director of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, said in a column that Batchelder has "a record of consistent and conservative judicial philosophy" and is someone who "brings a real-world, beyond-the-Beltway perspective" to her job.
Her colleagues and friends told ABC News that she is a constitutionalist and a rigorous practitioner of judicial restraint, and her own comments indicate as much. "Applying the limits found in the Constitution is not Republican, it's not Democrat, it is the duty of every judge who has taken an oath to uphold and defend that precious document," Batchelder said in the recent speech.
As someone who wears sweatshirts and jeans to work and allows her staff to dress casually, she is regarded as down-to-earth but also "very smart" and outgoing -- one friend told ABC News that her demeanor would serve her well in a confirmation hearing.
As an example of her judicial restraint, National Review cited Batchelder's ruling in Ejelonu v. INS. A young woman was facing deportation, caused in part by delays in the government processing of INS paperwork. A majority overturned an administrative court's holding by relying on a centuries-old English write that was explicitly abolished by Congress in the 1940s.
Batchelder was moved by the petitioner but wrote in dissent: "I do not want to see Ejelonu deported. If the majority's opinion represented a legitimate means by which to overturn the ... deportation order, I could -- and would -- join it without hesitation. It doesn't, and I can't." The majority's opinion was subsequently vacated by the full 6th Circuit.
National Review also said Batchelder is not a "pushover for corporations." In a recent decision in Wolf Creek Collieries v. Sammons, a case involving a widow's claim for Black Lung benefits, Batchelder granted the widow's benefits and chastised the corporation for dragging out the litigation in a "Thirty Years War."
Rulings and Controversies
Unlike previous Bush nominee Harriet Miers, who was criticized by both parties for her lack of credentials, Batchelder has a long record of judicial opinions on a variety of hot-button issues -- as well as some controversies.
A 1999 article in The Washington Post included Batchelder among federal judges who ruled in cases in which they have a financial conflict of interest. She ruled in five lawsuits involving Wal-Mart and Bristol Myers Squibb while her husband's retirement account held up to $50,000 in stock in those companies.
Batchelder and two other judges ruled that Wal-Mart could not be held liable for selling a 19-year-old a .357 Magnum revolver, which he later used to commit suicide. She told the Post that until contacted by a reporter she did not realize her husband's retirement account owned stock in Wal-Mart and other companies and said she should have withdrawn from this appeal and four other cases. "I'm extremely chagrined to discover it," she said. "The error is mine."
On the issue of abortion, Batchelder was in the majority of a split panel that voted to uphold the Ohio Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. This is one instance in which retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has been the swing vote. Batchelder falls on the other side.
In a landmark affirmative action case, Batchelder wrote a dissent in the 6th Circuit's opinion that upheld the constitutionality of the University of Michigan's law school affirmative action program. In her dissent, she endorses "all of" the dissent by her colleague Judge Danny Boggs, which called affirmative action a "straightforward instance of racial discrimination by a state institution."
Following that case, Batchelder was involved in a dispute over alleged misconduct by Chief Judge Boyce Martin of the 6th Circuit Court. She was involved in the complaint and then later presided over the dispute, ultimately dismissing it. Some Democratic critics said her conduct -- the accused judge was not given a chance to defend himself, and Batchelder refused to speak with him directly -- shows she doesn't have the judicial temperament needed for the High Court.
In other cases, Batchelder took a restrictive view of the Commerce Clause in United States v. Faasse, arguing that the federal Child Support Recovery Act was beyond Congress' power under the Commerce Clause, despite the fact that the law applies only when a non-custodial parent living in a different state than the other parent and child was trying to shirk child support obligations. In rejecting Batchelder's view, the en banc 6th Circuit explained that it "represents a completely discredited understanding of the Commerce Clause" and would "render unconstitutional innumerable federal statutes."
In a gun control case, United States v. Chesney, she argued a view in a concurrence that she admitted "no judicial opinion or academic commentary" has employed. In that case, she supported invalidating part of the Gun Control Act (which makes it a federal offense for a felon to be in possession of a firearm), which 10 circuit courts of appeal have held constitutional.
Democratic critics told ABC News that Batchelder was more conservative than Chief Justice William Rehnquist on the Family and Medical Leave Act. In Sims v. University of Cincinnati, she wrote an opinion that held the Family and Medical Leave Act was not a valid exercise of Congress' power under the Fourteenth Amendment because the act "discloses no pattern of discrimination by the states, let alone a pattern of constitutional violations." Democratic sources said the Supreme Court rejected her broad arguments in Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs, in a 6-3 ruling joined by both Rehnquist and O'Connor.
Batchelder wrote a majority opinion in a separation of powers case that National Review called "landmark" and hailed as "striking down congressional legislation usurping judicial power." The opinion held that a 1991 act mandating district courts to reinstate securities fraud claims that had been dismissed was an unconstitutional usurpation of judicial power and prohibited by the separation of powers provision of the Constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling in 1995.
In a 2004 case, Judge James DeWeese had a poster of the Ten Commandments displayed in his courtroom. A federal judge ordered the poster removed. The appeals panel upheld the ruling, but Batchelder dissented, writing that the lower court's decision to remove the small poster of the Ten Commandments from De Weese's courthouse was an "absurdity" considering the lower judge sat in a courthouse with a mural containing the commandments. She also added that the poster was a "small, unobtrusive copy ... as part of a series of documents and depictions that he uses for the express purpose of educating community groups in the history and philosophy of the law. It is not unconstitutional to make observations of historical fact."
In a 2001 racial discrimination case, Logan v. Denny's Inc., Batchelder dissented from the majority opinion, which reversed a summary judgment granted by the district court and held that Logan, a former Denny's employee, established a claim of racial discrimination under the Civil Rights Act. Batchelder's dissent rejected the majority's conclusion that remarks made to Logan such as "we don't serve grits here" and derogatory references to "your people" carried an "inference of invidious discrimination."
A Powerful Duo
While Batchelder was in school, she met her husband, William Batchelder III, a leading Ohio conservative and a state appeals court judge before he resigned at the end of September. It has been reported that he intends to run for the Ohio House.
William Batchelder served 32 years on the Ohio state general assembly until the end of 1998, and a friend told ABC News his friendships there crossed party lines. He worked as a teenager on the campaign of Barry Goldwater and was a protégé of Sen. John Ashbrook, who considered a run against President Nixon because he found him too liberal. Batchelder is credited by political friends and media reports with straightening savings and loans in Ohio.
William Batchelder was co-sponsor of the Ohio Civil Rights Initiative, a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would ban race- and gender-based preference laws in state and local government. He proposed to eliminate all programs in Ohio that give preferences to women or minorities in granting college scholarships or admissions, government contracts and government jobs.
His wife, however, has not taken an active role in his politics, though a friend told ABC News that they are "two peas in the same pod" and "they always appear in sync on everything."
The couple has two grown children, William Batchelder IV and Elizabeth Batchelder.