Monday, June 25, 2001
Bush Nomination of Local Judge to Ninth Circuit Draws Criticism
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl was nominated to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush Friday and immediately drew fire from critics who branded her an “extremist.”
Kuhl, 48, a six-year veteran of the Superior Court, worked in the U.S. Justice Department as a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith, and was a deputy solicitor general during the Reagan administration.
The nomination will likely be a hotly contested one as Kuhl’s nomination still has to be confirmed by the closely divided Senate, where Kuhl could face some tough opposition, according to a statement released Friday by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
“Almost any nomination of a Republican in California is going to have a rough going,” Pepperdine University School of Law Professor Doug Kmiec said.
Boxer said she had received numerous phone calls and letters in opposition of Kuhl’s nomination.
“These letters and calls raise a number of issues important to Californians including: the right to choose, civil rights, representation of tobacco companies, privacy rights and whistleblower protection,” Boxer said.
Boxer has met with Kuhl and the White House counsel and informed them of the concerns raised by her constituents.
“I am continuing to evaluate this nomination,” Boxer said.
Dianne Feinstein, California’s other Democratic senator, promised not to block a vote on Kuhl, despite earlier raising objections with the White House when Kuhl’s name was first mentioned for the nomination.
Feinstein talked with the White House about the nomination, but was not consulted before the final nomination was made, spokesman Howard Gantman said.
“She has since consulted with the White House and is supportive of having a hearing and a vote,” Gantman said. “What her vote will be we have no idea, but she is supportive of a vote.”
USC School of Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky said Kuhl’s nomination is a test of whether the Senate will force Bush to be a little more moderate in his selections.
“The question is, Will the Senate force Bush to pick from the middle of the road instead of the right the way the Senate forced Clinton to pick from the middle,” Chemerinsky said.
Kuhl spent three years with the Justice Department’s civil division before moving to the Solicitor General’s Office in 1985 where she argued four cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, winning two.
Opponents have concentrated their resistance based on actions Kuhl engaged in during her time in Washington, where she argued before the Supreme Court against abortion rights and in favor of a policy change that would enable racially discriminatory schools to regain tax-exempt status in the Bob Jones case.
“Americans do not want extremists on the bench,” said Nancy Sasaki, president of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project of Los Angeles County.
“But by nominating Kuhl, President Bush is clearly continuing his attempts to impose extremist, anti-choice views on a country that overwhelmingly supports a woman’s right to choose,” Sasaki said.
Other groups opposing the nomination include the Justice For All Project, Committee for Judicial Independence, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, Reproductive Rights Coalition of Los Angeles and Japanese American Citizens League.
While Kmiec admits that Kuhl’s involvement with the Bob Jones controversy among other early decisions made in the Reagan administration could make things difficult for Kuhl to get Senate confirmation, he said he didn’t believe that alone was enough to keep her from getting the nod.
“I know Senator Feinstein to be very very scrupulous and fair when reviewing issues and candidates,” Kmiec said. “I think when she does read the file she’ll find Carolyn Kuhl to be suitable to the serve on the Ninth Circuit.
Kuhl’s nomination is being supported by Vilma S. Martinez, a Democrat who headed the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund for nine years. Martinez said she was “delighted” to hear of her former colleague’s nomination.
Kuhl, an honors graduate of Duke Law School, clerked for Judge Anthony M. Kennedy on the Ninth Circuit before Kennedy was elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A St. Louis native, Kuhl moved to Los Angeles in 1978 to join the law firm now called Munger, Tolles & Olson.
After three years with the firm specializing in corporate law, Kuhl moved to Washington where she served for a year as special assistant to the-Attorney General William French Smith in the Reagan administration.
Kuhl returned to Munger, Tolles & Olson in 1986 as a partner and focused on litigation and appellate work before being nominated by then Gov. Pete Wilson to the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1995.
The Ninth Circuit is the nation’s largest appeals court with jurisdiction over nine Western states, including California. In addition to San Francisco, the Ninth Circuit also holds hearings in Pasadena, Seattle, Portland, Honolulu, and Anchorage.
If confirmed, Kuhl will fill one of three vacancies on the Ninth Circuit.
Bush also nominated Hawaii attorney and Republican partisan Richard R. Clifton to the Ninth Circuit.
Clifton, a 24-year veteran of Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright, has served as a volunteer attorney for the local Republican Party in Honolulu and as legal counsel for GOP gubernatorial candidates in Hawaii.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company