Friday, May 9, 2003
Senate Panel Approves Kuhl, Callahan Nominations to Ninth Circuit
Local Judge Squeaks by on Party-Line Vote, While Support for Stockton Jurist Is Unanimous
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed through the judicial nomination of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl on a 10-9 party-line vote yesterday over Democratic complaints that President Bush is naming ideologues to the federal bench.
Kuhl, 50, was one of two Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nominees approved by the committee yesterday. The other, Third District Court of Appeal Justice Consuelo Callahan, won unanimous approval.
Democrats said they have made no decision about whether to filibuster the Kuhl nomination, which is opposed by an alliance of abortion rights, environmentalist, liberal, and labor advocacy groups.
“We have two filibusters going. Maybe that’s enough,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, said. But the senator said she voted against Kuhl because her record as a judge and a Reagan administration lawyer was troubling.
“She argued for extreme positions and extreme changes in the law on the most divisive of social issues confronting this country,” Feinstein said.
Republicans yesterday tried and failed to get the 60 votes needed to end the filibusters. They lost a sixth attempt to gain a confirmation vote on Miguel Estrada, nominated for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, by a vote of 54-43.
Republicans fell short for a second time to end the delay on Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, nominated for the Fifth Circuit. The vote was 52-45.
Neither nominee gained any new Democratic support. John Breaux of Louisiana, Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bill Nelson of Florida are the only Democrats to back Estrada, while only Miller and Ben Nelson joined the GOP in support of Owen.
Kuhl, contacted by telephone, said she would not comment on the vote.
Kuhl’s opponents were heartened by the unanimous Democratic vote against her.
Republicans defended Kuhl, although several acknowledged concerns with her decision to dismiss a privacy claim brought by a breast cancer survivor after a doctor allowed a prescription drug salesman to observe her breast examination without her consent. Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal reversed Kuhl’s decision.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he has not decided whether to support Kuhl’s confirmation in the full Senate, although he voted for her yesterday. Specter said Kuhl’s record as a judge “is really very, very good.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, urged the committee chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to follow Senate custom and set aside Kuhl’s nomination because of opposition from home state senators—Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, also a Democrat.
Hatch Says Vote Likely
Hatch, who announced after Republicans took control of the Senate in January that he would treat opposition from home-state senators as only one factor in the process, said he probably would not comply with Leahy’s request.
“She should have a vote,” Hatch said after the committee met.
Boxer, who has opposed the nomination from the beginning, issued a statement following the vote, calling Kuhl “out of the mainstream and not representative of the values shared by most Californians on such matters as civil rights, privacy rights, women’s rights, whistleblower protection and consumer rights.”
She urged the president to withdraw the nomination. There are several “moderate” California Republicans who would serve ably on the court, she said.
Callahan, 52, was named to her present post by then-Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996. Wilson had previously named the Stockton resident to the San Joaquin Superior Court in 1992, making her the first woman, and the first Hispanic, ever to sit on that court.
Prior to that appointment, she served six years as a San Joaquin County Municipal Court commissioner.
She clerked for the public defender in Sacramento before her admission to the bar, then became a Stockton deputy city attorney in 1975 and moved to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office the following year, remaining there until appointed to the commissioner’s position.
Callahan has been described as conservative, but the Alliance for Justice, a liberal group opposed to Kuhl, noted in a memorandum this week that she has bipartisan support in California.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company