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There is a dangerous trend by the executive branch to derail the system of checks and balances that prevent any one of the three branches of our government from amassing excessive power. First Congress and President Bush tried to bully the courts in the Terri Schiavo case. Then the Justice Department told the federal courts to stay out of the proceedings of the military tribunals of enemy combatants. Looming on the horizon is Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's threat to use the nuclear option to prevent Democrats from filibustering nominees blocked in Bush's first term, when they are renominated for federal court positions.

Bush had the majority of his nominees approved by the Senate during his first term. Those who were not approved were opposed by Democrats as having radical views too far outside the mainstream. Many of the nominees have very strong ties to industry or questionable records on civil rights, worker protection and the care of our environment.

To push through these nominees with the nuclear option would create one-party rule in the Senate, give more power to the executive branch and jeopardize citizens' rights. If approved, the effects would be felt for years to come since the court positions are life terms. The actions of this administration are sheer hubris, and what is at stake is nothing less than the health of our democracy.

Elizabeth Calamita