Rogers Brown, Owen lightning rods for Democratic criticism

Here's a look at two judicial nominees who'll be featured in Senate debate this week in the confrontation over Democrats' use of the filibuster—or unlimited debate under Senate rules—to block a final vote on their nominations and others:

Nominee: Janice Rogers Brown, 55, California Supreme Court justice

Education: B.A., California State University, Sacramento; J.D., University of California at Los Angeles; L.L.M., University of Virginia

Resides: Sacramento

Why filibustered: Democrats describe her as an "agenda-driven" conservative judge rather than an impartial balancer of fact and law. Minority groups criticize her civil rights opinions. While her judicial writings tend to be conservative, Democrats have focused especially on her speeches, in which she's criticized activist government in tart language. She once described Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal as "the triumph of our own socialist revolution." She recently declared that U.S. people of faith are in a war with secular humanists. She's argued that expansive government corrupts society.

Background: She's an African-American, the daughter of Alabama sharecroppers. Former California Gov. Pete Wilson, a moderate Republican, appointed her to the state's appellate courts. She's the first black woman on California's Supreme Court. She was the lead author of a decision upholding a California law that limited affirmative action efforts to award local-government contracts to women and minorities. She's been criticized as being "out of the mainstream" in that opinion, but the court's ruling was unanimous.

Nominated to: U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit


Nominee: Priscilla Owen, 50, Texas Supreme Court justice

Education: B.A., Baylor University; J.D., Baylor Law School

Resides: Austin

Why filibustered: Critics say she opposes legal abortion. The case most often cited was a 6-3 Texas Supreme Court decision on whether a minor should be allowed to have an abortion without notifying a parent. Owen sided with the minority in that case, arguing that the child shouldn't have gotten an abortion without her parents first being notified and that the child didn't know enough about her options.

Background: Owen was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1994. In the abortion-notification case, critics point out that even U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who then was a fellow justice on the Texas Supreme Court, decried the minority's reasoning as "an unconscionable act of judicial activism." Gonzales now says that, while judges disagree from time to time, he thinks she's a "terrific" nominee.

Nominated to: 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans