- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2000

President Clinton's nomination Friday of a black federal judge from Baltimore to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has some applauding and others crying foul over what they see as injecting politics into the selection process.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch has made it clear that the Senate made its last confirmations of the session last week.

"To get a nomination sent up to us now, it really does make you wonder what the motive is," said Jeanne Lopatto, a spokeswoman for Mr. Hatch, Utah Republican.

That's too bad, say supporters of Judge Andre M. Davis, who sits on Baltimore's federal district court. They describe him as qualified and deserving of the job.

"I think he looks at the law and he tries to look at precedent, if there is any. But he applies the law in a way that he thinks is what he deems the law to really mean," said U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat representing Baltimore and a lawyer who attended the University of Maryland School of Law with Judge Davis.

Mr. Cummings recalled a notable decision in which Judge Davis invalidated a Baltimore policy of reserving a portion of contracts for minority-owned companies a policy Mr. Cummings had supported.

"When the ruling came down, I had so much comfort that he did what he really believed in that I couldn't really be mad at him," Mr. Cummings said.

Mr. Cummings said he typically would have taken the decision and scrutinized every word, but he didn't have to with Judge Davis because he had such confidence in him as a judge.

Judge Davis, 51, was appointed to the federal bench in 1995. He was a district judge in Baltimore for three years, then spent five years as a circuit judge. He is an adjunct professor at Maryland's law school and still teaches a class.

The Almanac of the Federal Judiciary cites lawyers who have found Judge Davis evenhanded, pro-government and strict in sentencing criminals.

The 4th Circuit covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. The circuit has the highest minority population of any circuit but is the only one never to have a black judge. Some Republicans say the circuit is running fine with only 10 of 15 judge slots filled, and shouldn't be tampered with.

Judge Davis' nomination is yet another from the administration that isn't going anywhere, and the president's critics say that's only right.

"Judge Davis and the other recent nominations are not being nominated for their sake but for Clinton's sake," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch Inc., which frequently tangles with the president over his legal and personal travails. "With Clinton, everything's politics. The Senate should not be considering judges from a person who's certified as having committed perjury."

Democrats have charged that Senate Republicans are discriminating by holding up minority and female nominees to the federal bench. But last week Mr. Hatch defended the Senate's record, citing statistics showing Mr. Clinton's nominees have been confirmed at almost the same rate as the previous two Republican presidents.

Both of Maryland's senators Democrats Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski are behind Judge Davis' nomination.

"Judge Davis will bring integrity, intellect, character and commitment to equal justice under the law that will make him a valued addition to the 4th Circuit," Mr. Sarbanes said in a statement.

Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat, didn't know enough about Judge Davis to comment on his nomination, but a spokeswoman said Mr. Robb would like to see some of the five vacancies on the 4th Circuit filled.

The office of Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, didn't return calls seeking comment.

But both Mr. Robb and Mr. Warner held a news conference recently to push for another nomination to the 4th Circuit Roger Gregory, a black lawyer from Richmond who never received a hearing.

George F. Allen, the former Virginia Republican governor challenging Mr. Robb, also supports Mr. Gregory but doesn't know enough about Judge Davis to evaluate him, a spokesman said.

But he called the timing of the new nomination a political move.

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