Nourse was special counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1990 to 1993, where she was staff drafter of the Violence Against Women Act. She was also an appellate attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1988 to 1990 and assistant counsel for the Senate Committee to Investigate the Iran-Contra Affair in 1987 and 1988.Here's the Accuracy in Media report on her role working on the Violence Against Women Act, written in 2007, when then-Senator Joseph Biden was running for President:
... Biden has just released a book acknowledging that he wasn’t the sole author of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This bill was Biden’s signature legislation. It resulted in tons of favorable publicity for him. But the book, Promises to Keep, reveals on page 240 that a female staffer was actually involved in drafting the legislation.This seems like a pretty minor criticism of Biden, but Nourse is honored to receive the recognition.
“The staffer, Victoria Nourse, and I wrote” the legislation, says Biden. However, his presidential website gives Biden sole credit for the legislation. It quotes Biden as saying that “What I’m most proud of in my entire career was writing the Violence Against Women’s Act because it is evidence we can change people’s lives, but the change is always one person at a time.” The term “writing,” as commonly understood, means that he wrote it. His office sent out a release calling the senator the “author” of the legislation. But “author,” like the term “writer,” has a definite meaning....
It’s true that Biden “introduced” VAWA. It is also accurate to say that he sponsored it. But to have paraded around the country for many years claiming to be the “author” or “writer” of the bill diminished the work of the female staffer who had been doing the bulk of the work behind the scenes. Later in the book, Biden refers to Nourse as his “lead staffer” on the bill, but that description, too, diminishes her work in this area.
But — you may be asking yourself —wasn't the Violence Against Women Act held unconstitutional? The act had many provisions, and one of them — giving private citizens a federal tort claim against other private citizens — was held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in 2000. It does not manifest a lack of legal expertise for Nourse to have thought that this provision was constitutional back in 1994 when the act was passed. That was before the Gun Free School Zones Act case in which the Supreme Court, for the first time in over half a century, found that Congress couldn't rely on the Commerce Clause to legislate in a particular area. You may argue about whether VAWA was a good use of federal power and whether it was a good idea to use the federal courts to handle gender-based violence cases. Was VAWA good federalism and the wise allocation of judicial resources? But, I think, VAWA reflects well on Nourse, Nourse is an excellent nomination of the sort one would expect Obama to make, and Obama is the President with the judicial appointment power.