Bush nominee no stranger to court battles
Facebook Twitter Email
MAY 23, 2001

President Bush's pick for the federal circuit appeals court lost sole custody of her children in 1994 because a court ruled she spent too much time doing her job as legal counsel to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

To get her two kids back -- Matthew and Jeffrey -- Sharon Prost pushed physical abuse charges against her ex-husband Kenneth Greene. The allegations weren't new, though, and had been raised throughout the couple's occasionally rancorous divorce trial.

But the charges didn't stick and a District of Columbia appeals court in 1996 upheld the custody award to Greene, who at times was unemployed while Prost dedicated much of her time and energy to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The panel, chaired by Hatch, will now decide if Proust is fit for the federal bench.

At the time, Prost's divorce proceedings attracted the attention of women's groups who were appalled at the consideration she received. The National Organization of Women, the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the Womens' Bar Association of the District of Columbia were just a few of the women's rights and professional organizations who rallied at Prost's side.

The case, they said, was indicative of the growing numbers of successful women lawyers who lost their children only because they were dedicated to their jobs. It was a dramatic reversal of years of divorce cases in which mothers were almost automatically granted custody of their children.

But as times changed, so did the courts. Stay at home fathers began receiving greater parental rights as cases like Prost's made national headlines.

When Prost and Greene married in 1984, they were like a number of Washington, DC, couples, holding down high-profile politically related jobs. Prost was an assistant lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board, while Greene was the executive director of the National Education Association Staff Organization.

The next few years of their marriage were followed by a number of career changes by Greene. Within the course of five years, he changed jobs at least five times, and was usually unemployed in interim periods.

Meanwhile, Prost in 1989 joined the legal team of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, eventually moving onto Hatch's committee in 1993. The career change proved costly to Prost's relationship as she began spending more time away from her home, husband, and children.

The couple agreed to divorce in January 1992 but it was delayed so that Greene, unemployed again, could find a job. The sketchy job record proved an asset for Greene once proceedings began as a judge concluded he often turned down employment or took pay cuts so that he could spend more time with his children.

So at the conclusion of their trial, a District of Columbia judge in 1994 awarded sole custody to Greene, with liberal visitation rights to Prost, who was also ordered to pay $23,000 a year in child support. The ruling was a curious one, since Greene wasn't exactly Mr. Mom: the couple relied on day care services throughout their marriage and even hired a live-in nanny to help take care of the children.

Prost's subsequent legal appeals all failed.

If confirmed Prost would oversee a number of cases affecting tribes. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals hears land claims and trust relationship cases, as well as some appeals of decisions made by federal agencies.

Consideration of a number of Bush's judicial choices are being held up due to complaints raised by Democrats about the nomination process. Bush has already sent Prost's nomination to the Senate, but Hatch has yet to schedule a hearing.

Hatch has delayed consideration of three judicial nominees due to Democrat objections.

Relevant Links:
US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit -
Senate Judiciary Committee -

Related Stories:
Bush names judges to Montana federal court (5/22)
Apache Tribe wins trust case appeal (5/17)
Tribe wins royalty case appeal (5/14)
Judicial nominee hit on civil rights (5/18)
Judicial nominee saga begins (5/10)
Religious advocate on board for 10th Circuit (5/9)
Bush nominee familiar with Indian law (5/9)
Religious advocate on board for 10th Circuit (5/9)
War waged over Bush nominees (5/4)