Background and Information: Judge William H. Pryor Jr.

 

 Personal Life 
·         Born in Mobile, Alabama in 1962.
·         One of four children; mother worked as cafeteria manager and teacher at Catholic and inner city public schools; father was band director at Catholic high school.
  • Married to Kristan Pryor; father of two daughters.
Current Position
  • Sits on United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (2004-present).
  • Confirmed by the United States Senate in a 53-45 vote.
  • Recess appointment by President George W. Bush.
Education
  • B.A., Northeast Louisiana State University (now University of Louisiana, Monroe), 1984; magna cum laude; tuition paid with scholarships for band, academics, debate, and pre-law studies.
  • J.D., Tulane University School of Law, 1987; Editor in Chief, Tulane Law Review; Faculty Honor Scholar; magna cum laude.
Legal Experience
  • Clerk for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 1987-88.
  • Attorney at Cabaniss, Johnston, Gardner, Dumas & O’Neal in Birmingham, AL, 1988-91
  • Attorney at Walston, Stabler, Wells, Anderson & Bains in Birmingham, AL, 1991-95;
  • Deputy Attorney General, State of Alabama, 1995-97
  • Attorney General of Alabama, 1997-2004.
Key Decisions and Quotations
Textualism & Originalism
Judge Pryor is a committed originalist and textualist who consistently relies on Founding-era sources to interpret constitutional text and repudiates calls for judges to expand or update constitutional rules to fit modern times. For example, in United States v. Phillips (2016), a Fourth Amendment case, Judge Pryor carefully analyzed legal texts dating back to English common law, as well as Founding-era documents, to determine whether a writ of bodily attachment qualifies as a warrant. He has been a vocal critic of Roe v. Wade because the decision had “no basis in the plain language of the Constitution.” He routinely applies interpretative methods endorsed by Justice Scalia and is well within the mainstream of conservative legal thought.
Judicial Activism
Judge Pryor has been a vocal critic of judges overstepping their constitutional bounds and legislating from the bench, writing:
“Judicial activism violates the Constitution itself, which judges are sworn to uphold and defend. It is a betrayal of the oath of office for judges to exceed their authority, under Article III of the Constitution, by ruling based on a personal or political agenda rather than the texts of the Constitution and laws, decisions of the Supreme Court, and relevant appellate precedents.”
He has explained that this blurring of the separation of powers means that “the most important decisions of our time and our country are not being made by the people or their elected representatives. The Supreme Court has restructured our political community without the consent of our people.”
Second Amendment
As Attorney General of Alabama, Pryor was a strong supporter of the right to bear arms, explaining that “In a republic that promotes a free society . . . one of the basic organizing principles is that individuals have a right of self-defense and a right to acquire the means for that defense.” In 2001, he received the NRA’s Harlon B. Carter Legislative Achievement Award for his defense of Second Amendment rights.
First Amendment: Religion
Judge Pryor has written that the Constitution does not require citizens to “exclude God and religion from our public life.” His separate concurrence in EWTN v. Secretary, Dep’t of HHS (2014) explained why a Catholic television station was likely to win its challenge to the Obamacare birth control mandate, writing that the steep fine imposed a “substantial burden” on religion.
Federalism
Judge Pryor has been a staunch defender of federalism for nearly 20 years, including as a leader of the “Federalism Revolution” of the late 1990s and early 2000s; he has said that federalism is “near and dear to my heart.” As Attorney General of Alabama, he filed numerous amicus briefs on behalf of states urging the Supreme Court to block federal intrusion into policy areas the Constitution reserves for states. On this topic, his arguments almost always aligned with Justices Scalia and Thomas. His belief in federalism also applies to criminal law, in which he has been a strong advocate for sentencing reform in the states.

 

 

Compiled by the Judicial Crisis Network, headed up by Carrie Severino, who is chief counsel to the organization, and a former clerk to Justice Thomas.

 

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