Wednesday, January 8, 2003
Bush Again Nominates Kuhl, Otero for Federal Bench
Renewed Battle Over Mississippian May Complicate Local Jurist’s Bid for Ninth Circuit
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
President Bush yesterday sent the names of more than 30 judicial nominees, including Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Carolyn Kuhl and S. James Otero, to the U.S. Senate.
The president appeared to be readying for confrontation with Senate Democrats, as the list of nominees—all of whom were nominated during the last Congress but not confirmed—included two Southern conservatives who were rejected by the then-Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee.
One of the nominees was U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi, who was accused of being racially insensitive. Democrats urged Bush not to send Pickering’s name back to the Senate after one of his patrons, Sen. Trent Lott, stepped down as Senate GOP leader after making racially insensitive remarks.
Also among yesterday’s nominees was Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who, like Pickering, was voted down by the Judiciary Committee last year for a seat on the Fifth Circuit.
Senate Democrats immediately pledged to do whatever they could to keep Pickering from getting a seat on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, including a possible filibuster of the nomination.
“Unfortunately, they have not learned from the Trent Lott episodes and I am going to do everything I can to stop the Pickering nomination from going forward,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
The Pickering battle could spill over into battles over other nominations, including Kuhl’s nomination to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Lott’s recent assertion that the country would have been better off if Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948 triggered a media review of the senator’s record. One of the incidents focused on was the senator’s authorship of an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to restore the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, which at the time barred interracial dating and excluded any student who advocated interracial marriage or dating from attending the school.
Kuhl, as a young Justice Department lawyer, supported that position, which the Supreme Court rejected in an 8-1 1983 ruling. Her defenders argue that she was merely acting as an advocate in support of a stance that had been formulated by senior lawyers and endorsed by the Reagan administration and that the issue in the case was not race but the scope of the IRS’s authority.
Her nomination has been opposed by liberal organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League and the Alliance for Justice, and by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has urged hearings on the nomination, but has not assured her support.
Otero’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California stands in marked contrast. He is backed by Boxer and Feinstein and his confirmation prospects appear solid.
Also renominated yesterday was Orange Superior Court Judge Cormac J. Carney to the district court. Carney’s nomination came late in the year, and no opposition has emerged to date.
Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, “is pleased that the president is acting as soon as possible on nominations. We have a lot of leftover work to do,” spokeswoman Margarita Tapia said.
Senate Democrats say Pickering’s renomination shows the GOP did not learn anything from Lott’s controversy.
“Given the encouraging rhetoric of this administration on civil rights over the last few weeks, it’s astonishing that when it’s time to match that rhetoric with real action they nominate Charles Pickering to serve on the second highest court in the nation,” said Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Kennedy said Democrats “will use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that his nomination is rejected again this year.”
Pickering was defeated 10-9 in committee last March after civil rights groups said he supported segregation as a young man in Mississippi. Pickering’s opponents also pointed to his conservative voting record as a Mississippi state lawmaker and decisions as a judge.
Pickering’s supporters, including some Mississippi Democrats and black leaders, said Pickering supported civil rights efforts as far back as the middle 1960s.
The Senate last year confirmed 100 of Bush’s 131 appellate and district court nominees under Democratic control.
Yesterday’s other Court of Appeals nominees were Terrence W. Boyle to the Fourth Circuit; Deborah L. Cook, Jeffrey S. Sutton, Richard A. Griffin, David W. McKeague, Henry W. Saad and Susan Bieke Neilson to the Sixth Circuit; Jay S. Bybee to the Ninth Circuit; Timothy M. Tymkovich to the Tenth Circuit; and Miguel A. Estrada and John G. Roberts Jr. to the District of Columbia Circuit.
Nominated to district courts were John R. Adams of Ohio, J. Daniel Breen of Tennessee, James C. Dever III of North Carolina, Ralph R. Erickson of North Dakota, Sandra J. Feuerstein of New York, Gregory L. Frost of Ohio, S. Maurice Hicks Jr. of Louisiana, Richard J. Holwell of New York, Robert A. Junell of Texas, Thomas L. Ludington of Michigan, William D. Quarles Jr. of Maryland, Frederick W. Rohlfing III of Hawaii, Thomas A. Varlan of Tennessee and William H. Steele of Alabama.
Timothy C. Stanceu was nominated to the Court of International Trade.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company