May 02, 2006

4th Circuit Nominee Boyle in Hot Water Over Anti-Disability Ruling

Did we need more evidence that North Carolina U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle is no friend to folks with disabilities?

Boyle was nominated by Bush back in 2001 to fill the vacant seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (covering NC, SC, VA, WV and MD), but the nomination stalled after a Senate hearing last spring, when Democrats threatened to filibuster a floor vote. Now Sen. Bill Frist (R.-TN) is pressing for a May vote.

A story out yesterday on now reports on findings from the Center for Investigative Reporting that Boyle ruled against a General Electric employee's claim to long-term disability benefits when Boyle, in fact, had just bought stock in GE.


Starting in 2002, Terrence W. Boyle, a longtime federal district court judge in North Carolina, presided over a lawsuit against General Electric, in which the corporation stood accused of illegally denying disability benefits to a long-standing employee. Deep into the case, on Jan. 15, 2004, Judge Boyle bought stock in General Electric, according to a review of his financial filings. Two months later, he made his ruling: Boyle shot down the plaintiff's claims to long-term and pension disability benefits, granting him only a fraction of the money in short-term compensation for a debilitating mental condition. . . .

You have to watch a brief ad before you can read the story, but it's free... read it here: .

The findings in the story aren't new -- the Center for Investigative Reporting's work was done awhile back -- the reason it's news now is because just published a story on it. And that timing was likely influenced by the Frist push -- the Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist News Wire posting yesterday a.m. noting the Salon article clearly looks like a coordinated effort by Boyle anti's (some of them at to stir a pot that needs some stirring just now.

The Raleigh News & Observer (in NC, where Boyle now occupies the federal bench) has two stories in reaction, with conflicting headlines: first, Claims put Boyle's new bench seat at risk, and then Report doesn't dim backing for Boyle.

Go figure.

The current news flap notwithstanding, Boyle's action should be no surprise to disability activists. The judge has a longtime anti-disability record. According to the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law,

Boyle has consistently ruled against individuals with disabilities in cases brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504. Many of his decisions are based on radical interpretations of disability rights laws, which are often completely inconsistent with basic disability law as interpreted by other courts and federal enforcement agencies and as expressed in the statutes and regulations. . . .

Read the full Bazelon Center report on Boyle .

Posted on May 02, 2006