print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
 Home > News & Policies > Policies in Focus

Link to Judicial Nominations Front Page
Judge William H. Pryor Jr.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Confirmed June 9, 2005

  • Judge Bill Pryor has earned a reputation as one of America’s most experienced and distinguished public servants. His nomination has received overwhelming support from across the ideological and political spectrum. Judge Pryor has been nominated to the Eleventh Circuit, which covers the states of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.
  • Judge Pryor has had a distinguished career as a public servant, practicing attorney, and law professor.
    • Judge Pryor was recess appointed by the President on February 20, 2004 to the Eleventh Circuit to fill a vacancy that is designated a "judicial emergency" by the Judicial Conference of the United States. He has served with distinction for over a year.
    • Judge Pryor was appointed as Attorney General of Alabama on January 2, 1997. After being elected to a full four-year term in 1998, Alabamians overwhelmingly reelected Judge Pryor as Attorney General in 2002. He had previously served as Deputy Attorney General in charge of special civil and constitutional litigation.
    • Before joining the Attorney General’s Office, Judge Pryor practiced law in Birmingham, Alabama at two of the state’s finest law firms, specializing in commercial and complex federal litigation. He also taught several years as an adjunct professor at the Cumberland School of Law of Samford University.
  • Judge Pryor is an outstanding and highly qualified candidate as evidenced by his professional and academic credentials and training.
    • Judge Pryor began his legal career as a law clerk for a civil rights legend, the late Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Judge Wisdom achieved renown for his landmark decisions ordering and implementing desegregation in the wake of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and received the American Bar Association Medal, the ABA’s highest honor, in 1996.
    • Judge Pryor attended Tulane University School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1987 and was editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review.
  • Judge Pryor's impressive record demonstrates his belief in the rule of law and treating all people equally under the law. As Judge Pryor stated at his hearing, "I understand my obligation to follow the law, and I have a record of doing it. You don’t just have to take my word that I will follow the law. You can look at my record as Attorney General and see where I have done it."
    • Judge Pryor ordered state prosecutors to interpret the Alabama Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act narrowly and consistent with Supreme Court precedent even though the plain language of the statute permitted broader application.
    • Judge Pryor has done his duty as Attorney General to defend Alabama statutes from attack and defend Alabama taxpayers from huge money judgments.
    • Judge Pryor has been praised by a broad range of Alabama African-American leaders for his record of fighting for civil rights and equal treatment under law for all.
    • Judge Pryor has advocated for a variety of new laws to protect women from domestic violence and helped create innovative new programs to help women.
    • Judge Pryor helped start Mentor Alabama, a program helping at-risk children.
    • Judge Pryor, while Attorney General, represented the State and personally prosecuted charges against then-Chief Justice Roy Moore that ultimately led to Justice Moore’s removal from office for defiance of federal court orders.
    • Judge Pryor has served with distinction for over a year on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He has authored numerous three-judge panel decisions joined by judges appointed by both Democratic and Republican Presidents. Senator Specter has noted that "several opinions . . . demonstrate Judge Pryor’s willingness to protect the rights of individuals often overlooked in the legal system."
      • Judge Pryor reversed a district court decision and ruled that a prisoner suffering from HIV and hepatitis could pursue a constitutional claim alleging inappropriate medical treatment by prison officials. Judge Pryor also held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act did not preclude the prisoner from amending his complaint and proceeding in forma pauperis. Brown v. Johnson, 387 F.3d 1344 (11th Cir. 2004).
      • Judge Pryor reinstated a civil rights claim dismissed by a district court where the district court did not place appropriate weight on the discriminatory conduct alleged by a female employee. Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079 (11th Cir. 2004).
      • Judge Pryor ruled that Congress did not exceed its power under the Spending Clause in enacting the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). This ruling permitted a prisoner to pursue a claim that prison officials did not permit him to practice his Jewish faith. Benning v. Georgia, 391 F.3d 1299 (11th Cir. 2004).
  • Judge Pryor has widespread support from across the ideological and political spectrum.
    • Dr. Joe Reed, Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference and a member of the Democratic National Committee, calls Judge Pryor a "first-class public official" who "will be a credit to the [j]udiciary and will be a guardian for justice."
    • Thurbert Baker, the Democratic Attorney General of Georgia, says that Judge Pryor "has always done what he thought was best for the people of Alabama" and "know[s] that [Pryor’s] work on the bench will continue to serve as an example of how the public trust should be upheld."
    • Democratic state legislator Rep. Alvin Holmes "request[s] [the Senate's] swift confirmation of [Judge] Pryor . . . because of his constant efforts to help the causes of blacks in Alabama."
    • U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) stated "I have the utmost respect for my friend [Judge] Pryor and I believe if he is selected, Alabama will be proud of his service."


The Honorable Alvin Holmes, Alabama State Representative

"I am a black member of the Alabama House of Representatives having served for 28 years. During my time of service in the Alabama House of Representatives I have led most of the fights for civil rights of blacks, women, lesbians and gays and other minorities. . . . [A]s one of the key civil rights leaders in Alabama who has participated in basically every major civil rights demonstration in America, who has been arrested for civil rights causes on many occasions, as one who was a field staff member of Dr. Martin Luther King's SCLC, as one who has been brutally beaten by vicious police officers for participating in civil rights marches and demonstrations, as one who has had crosses burned in his front yard by the KKK and other hate groups, as one who has lived under constant threats day in and day out because of his stand fighting for the rights of blacks and other minorities, I request your swift confirmation of Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit because of his constant efforts to help the causes of blacks in Alabama." (June 5, 2003)

The Honorable Thurbert E. Baker, Attorney General of Georgia

"I have had the great pleasure of knowing and working with Bill Pryor over the past five years. Through the National Association of Attorneys General, Bill and I have worked together on matters of mutual concern to Georgia and Alabama. . . . During his tenure as Attorney General, Bill has made combating white-collar crime and public corruption one of the centerpieces of his service to the people of Alabama. He joined the effort of Attorneys General around the country in fighting the rising tide of identity theft, pushing through legislation in the Alabama legislature making identity theft a felony in Alabama. . . . He has always done what he thought was best for the people of Alabama. Recognizing a wrong that had gone on far too long, he took the opportunity of his inaugural address to call on an end to the ban on inter-racial marriages in Alabama law. Concerned about at-risk kids in Alabama schools, he formed Mentor Alabama, a program designed to pair volunteer mentors with students who needed a role model and an attentive ear to the problems facing them on a daily basis." (Mar. 31, 2003)

The Honorable Artur Davis, Representative, 7th District of Alabama

"I understand that the President may be considering Attorney General Bill Pryor for a seat on the Eleventh Circuit. I have the utmost respect for my friend Attorney General Pryor and I believe if he is selected, Alabama will be proud of his service." (Jan. 10, 2003)

The Honorable Charlie Crist, Attorney General of Florida

"General Pryor is well qualified for such a position as he has had a distinguished career as a public servant, practicing attorney, and law professor. . . . General Pryor began his legal career as a law clerk for the late Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, who is renown for his landmark decision ordering and implementing desegregation. . . . Attorney General Pryor’s professional experience gives him the necessary qualification to meet the demands of the bench with honesty and uprightness, often resisting pressure from his own party in the process. He would be a valuable asset to the 11th Circuit, and I am pleased to strongly recommend him for your consideration." (April 15, 2003)

Chris McNair, Former Alabama State Representative

"I am writing to voice my support of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. . . . I should advise you that I am a life long Democrat [and] one of the first African-Americans elected to the Alabama House of Representatives . . . . My daughter Denise was one of the four young girls killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church and the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream of equal rights and justice for all has been my personal crusade. . . . By designating the prosecutors [in the 16th St. bombing case] as Special Assistant Attorney Generals and by providing financial assistance through his office, he demonstrated a commitment to justice that had been long overdue. . . . I have always found [General Pryor] to be a man of honesty and integrity who attempts to follow all laws faithfully and fully. . . . In sum, I believe Bill Pryor to be a man who is committed to following the rule of law regardless of the outcome and that he is personally committed to insuring that all people receive equal justice." (June 9, 2003)

William J. Baxley, Baxley, Dillard, Dauphin, and McKnight, and Former Attorney General of Alabama

"I too am a former Attorney General of our great state. I therefore feel comfortable assessing Bill Pryor’s service in that elected office, as well as his fitness to serve the United States as a Circuit Judge. As a Democrat, I am certain I have a more unbiased frame of reference than many. As a lawyer with a diverse practice in Alabama – one which has seen me aligned with him on some occasions and against him on others – I have a better basis than most for gauging his character, fitness and ability. . . . In this regard, his willingness to be guided by pure interpretations of the law superbly qualifies him for the federal bench. He has never, to my knowledge, bowed to any pressure from constituents or special interest groups. In every difficult decision he has made, his actions were supported by his interpretation of the law, without race, gender, age, political power, wealth, community standing, or any other competing interest affecting his judgment. . . . I often disagree, politically, with Bill Pryor. This does not prevent me from making this recommendation because we need fair minded, intelligent, industrious men and women, possessed of impeccable integrity, on the Eleventh Circuit. Bill Pryor has these qualities in abundance. . . . There is no better choice for this vacancy." (Apr. 8, 2003)

The Honorable Sue Bell Cobb, Judge, Ala. Court of Criminal Appeals

"I write, not only as the only statewide Democrat to be elected in 2000, not only as a member of the Court which reviews the greatest portion of General Pryor’s work, but also as a child advocate who has labored shoulder to shoulder with General Pryor in the political arena on behalf of Alabama’s children. . . . Bill Pryor is an outstanding attorney general and is one of the most righteous elected officials in this state. He possesses two of the most important attributes of a judge: unquestionable integrity and a strong internal moral compass. . . . Bill Pryor is exceedingly bright, and a lawyer’s lawyer. He is as dedicated to the ‘Rule of Law’ as anyone I know. I have never known another attorney general who loved being the ‘people’s lawyer’ more than Bill Pryor. Though we may disagree on an issue, I am always confident that his position is the product of complete intellectual honesty. He loves the mental challenge presented by a complex case, yet he never fails to remember that each case impacts people’s lives." (Jan. 21, 2003)

Dr. Joe Reed, Chairman, Alabama Democratic Conference

"[Pryor] is a person, in my opinion, who will uphold the law without fear or favor. I believe all races and colors will get a fair shake when their cases come before him. As Attorney General for Alabama during the past six (6) years, he has been fair to all people. . . . For your information, I am a member of the Democratic National Committee and, of course, Mr. Pryor is Republican, but these are only party labels. I am persuaded that in Mr. Pryor’s eyes, Justice has only one label – Justice!" (Jan. 27, 2003)

G. Douglas Jones, Whatley Drake, Former U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Alabama

"I am writing now, as a loyal Democrat, to support the nomination of Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Bill Pryor became Alabama’s Attorney General less than a year before I was sworn in as U.S. Attorney. In short order we not only formed a strong friendship, but a federal-state working partnership that I believe was second to none. . . . His personal involvement in our joint efforts was critical to he success that was realized, including the success in the [1963 16th Street Baptist] church bombing cases. . . . Despite our differences, . . . there is no question that Bill Pryor is [e]minently qualified for the federal bench. He is a brilliant lawyer whose career has been marked by fundamental fairness and an appreciation for the rule of law. He has a solid reputation for honesty and integrity that greatly contributed to his overwhelming re-election by the people [of] Alabama. I believe you will find that Bill Pryor is held in high regard by people on both sides of the political aisle and by people of all races and gender. He has provided outstanding public service to the people of Alabama and there is no doubt he will serve with even greater distinction as a federal jurist. . . . I have pledged to assist in Bill’s nomination and confirmation process in any way I can." (Jan. 31, 2003)

Kathryn Coumanis, Executive Director, Penelope House Family Violence Center

"I mentioned, to my Board at our regular meeting last Thursday, that I would be sending this letter. The entire Board of Directors of Penelope House Family Violence Center here in Mobile, AL, unanimously asked that I include them in support of this nomination. Attorney General Bill Pryor has been a long time supporter and advocate of Penelope House, and has worked tirelessly to protect women and children from the dangers of domestic violence. . . . When Bill Pryor raises his voice in support of our mission, it enables us to reach every member of our community. Attorney General Pryor not only joins us every October in celebration of domestic violence awareness month, but enables us to reach a State wide audience at every opportunity. Three years ago he reached and touched the hearts of thousands of Alabamians when he placed a drawing by one of our shelter children on the cover of his Christmas card. Attorney General Pryor is ever vigilant regarding any funding which may become available to our programs and keeps us informed about these sources. He always supports our efforts to obtain grants, and follows and supports legislation which may be of concern to the domestic violence programs throughout our state. Bill Pryor will bring to the Federal Bench the qualities that all Americans cherish. He is loyal to his State and his Country, is a man of princip[le] and integrity, is highly intelligent, and most of all is a man who has immense compassion and respect for his fellow human beings." (Mar. 17, 2003)

Dianne Mooney, Allocations Chair, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham

"During his illustrious career General Pryor has demonstrated his compassion for the citizens of Alabama in countless ways. Of special importance to those of us who serve on the Board of Directors of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has been his focus on the plight of victims of domestic violence. You may know that in 2001 General Pryor awarded Nine West Inc. settlement money to The Women’s Fund to create and implement a meaningful program to combat domestic violence in Alabama. Those of us on the board went to work to maximize our AG’s investment by creating CUT IT OUT Salons Against Domestic Violence that is now operating in its second year in Alabama and will be launched nationwide later this year through a professional business partnership. I sincerely hope that you will confirm General Pryor’s nomination. He is more than fair and judicious and treats issues on women and minorities with great care and respect. And from a more personal standpoint, I celebrate his vision and personal courage to trust and empower others to positively impact our community and our state." (Mar. 27, 2003)

Charles W. Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship Ministries

"I have great admiration for Bill and support his nomination with enthusiasm. I observed Bill during his years as Attorney General of Alabama and was quite impressed. He has a firm grasp of the law, and is an articulate and forceful advocate. He used his office to speak out for reform in prison sentencing and was an ardent supporter of the Kennedy-Sessions Prison Rape Reduction Act. He also was instrumental in the passage of Alabama’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which guarantees religious freedom for all, including prisoners. . . . While Bill is a forceful advocate, he also believes in the rule of law. When the debate ceases, Bill defends the law as it is written by the legislature or a higher court. Bill has a brilliant mind and the proper temperament for service on the Court of Appeals." (Apr. 1, 2003)

Herc Levine, Birmingham, AL

"While I doubt that [certain] groups have taken the time to sit down and talk with Attorney General Pryor, I am proud to say that he has my support and the support of many in the Alabama Jewish Community because of his personal integrity and commitment to insure that all of our citizens are treated fairly and receive equal justice under the law. He has been a true friend to the Alabama Jewish Community on many important issues. . . . He has a well deserved reputation for fairness and competency that cuts across party lines and which has resulted in overwhelming support from Alabamians of all political parties and segments of our society. His distinguished record as Attorney General affirms my belief that he will serve with great distinction as a Federal judge." (June 5, 2003)

Pat Nolan, President, Justice Fellowship

"Bill has shown knowledge of the law, brilliance, courage and compassion. In particular, he has forcefully spoken of the need to protect prisoners from rape, and has been effective in rallying support for the Kennedy-Sessions Prison Rape Reduction Act. . . . Bill speaks forcefully and with clarity on the important issues of the day. That is one of the things that make him such an exceptional leader. However, he reveres the rule of law, and has always subordinated his own opinions when the legislative or judicial authorities have ruled on the law." (Apr. 1, 2003)

David G. Wirtes, Jr., Cunningham, Bounds, Yance, Crowder & Brown, L.L.C. (for the firm)

"We [in the firm] are each lifelong Democrats who have substantially contributed to Democratic candidates and support Democratic principles and ideals. While we have some political differences with Attorney General Pryor, we believe that those political differences are far overshadowed by his excellent judicial qualifications and professional attributes. . . . We can confidently assure you and the members of the Judiciary Committee that Attorney General Pryor has always followed the law, whether it was to his liking or not. In other words, we have seen no evidence that Attorney General Pryor would use his position as an appellate jurist to legislate from the bench." (June 5, 2003)

Jere L. Beasley, Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.

"I have known Bill since he worked for [Senator Sessions] in the Attorney General’s office and I believe that he has all of the necessary qualifications to do an outstanding job on the federal bench. I am writing to support his nomination. The Attorney General and I come from different political parties and have disagreed on a number of issues. However, I have tremendous respect for him and sincerely believe that he has served the state well as Attorney General. I would have done some things differently, but that alone does not keep me from supporting him now. Bill Pryor is extremely bright and is a recognized student of the law. His character is beyond reproach and, in my opinion, he will be fair and judicious if he is nominated and confirmed by the Senate." (March 25, 2003)