Tuesday, August 15, 2006

NYT and the Nomination of Wallace

This is rich (as in "worthy of ridicule"), and a predictable position for the New York Times to take.

Help Wanted: Qualified Judges - New York Times

There has been a lot of talk about bipartisanship lately, notably from conservatives who say that Senator Joseph Liebermans loss in the Connecticut Democratic primary was a setback for the cause. But any message about the importance of interparty cooperation has not reached the White Houses judicial selection team or Republican leaders in the Senate. The latest judicial nominee they have dug in their heels to defend is a far-right lawyer who received a unanimous not qualified rating from the American Bar Association. The Bush administration should withdraw his nomination and four others that are in limbo, and replace them with nominees who do not appeal exclusively to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party.

Michael Wallace, a former lawyer for Senator Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican, has been nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans. Mr. Wallace has a long record of insensitivity to civil rights. He argued in favor of letting Bob Jones University, which discriminated on the basis of race, keep its tax-exempt status, and he has a troubling record on voting rights. When the A.B.A. interviewed 69 lawyers and judges who knew him, it heard repeatedly that he was hostile to poor people and minorities. Of the 69, more than one-third expressed grave concerns about his judicial temperament.

The A.B.A. has been generous, indeed too generous, in its evaluations of President Bushs nominees, the overwhelming majority of whom have received ratings of qualified and well qualified. Given that track record, a unanimous finding of not qualified should set off alarm bells. Instead, Senator Arlen Specter, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has been trying to make the A.B.A. the focus. Disturbingly, he is talking about requiring it to divulge to the Senate the confidential interviews it conducts about nominees. That could undermine the A.B.A.s ability to evaluate judges, since it could discourage lawyers from speaking freely. In any case, the Senate has no business rifling through materials the A.B.A. does not want to provide.

With the Senate in recess, Mr. Wallaces nomination has been returned to the White House, along with others that the Senate wisely declined to confirm. Those nominees include William Haynes II, a chief architect of the administrations detainee policies. The White House should replace those men with nominees worthy of these important posts.

The ABA stiffed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which probably would have been sympathetic to the charges leveled against Wallace if the charges could be substantiated. And Specter is not requesting a public showing "to the Senate" by the ABA, he has offered a confidential review process to the ABA, whereby the charges could be substantiated without any public disclosure of the people making the accusations.

It's interesting that the ABA is vigorously defending its "right to secrecy," where the secrets involve accusations of class bias against a judicial nominee - and at the same time, the ABA is against the executive secrecy interests that it sees behind President Bush's signing statements.

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