- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Liberal and feminist groups are gearing up for a "nasty and contentious fight" against President Bush's judicial nominees who do not support abortion, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.
The Ms. Foundation, National Organization for Women and Alliance for Justice are holding press conferences this week to criticize nominees and coordinate their activities with Democratic senators.
Beginning today, "Democratic Senators will take to the floor of the Senate to press the importance of scrutinizing and reviewing nominees," a circulating memo says. The groups are encouraging their members to e-mail letters to those senators echoing their support.
A senate aide said Republicans are surprised at the extent of coordination among the groups and Democratic leaders to stall nominees.
"This is unbelievable coordination at its worst against President Bush's judicial and administrative nominations, who need to be confirmed as soon as possible to help us fight the war on terrorism and serve Americans," the aide said.
The memo detailing a Dec. 6 conference call also cited the groups' displeasure with the American Bar Association for reviewing only a judicial candidate's legal background, "not their stand on choice or their temperament."
The group's first major battle will be over the nomination of Charles Pickering Sr. to the 5th Circuit Court. Mr. Pickering was first appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by President Bush's father.
"We can win on that fight, but it will be nasty and contentious," the memo says. It contends that Mr. Pickering has a "troubling record on civil and reproductive rights" and "wants to ban abortion."
Also targeted for delay are the nominations of John Roberts for the D.C. Circuit Court, Michael McConnell to the 10th Circuit and Carolyn Kuhl to the 9th Circuit.
The groups are planning letter-writing campaigns to senators, visits to newspaper editorial boards and a letter-writing campaign to national newspapers.
Senate Republicans have been complaining about the slow pace of the confirmation process over the past several weeks. Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, has said the Senate under Democratic rule has become a "black hole of inactivity."
Mr. Bush has nominated 64 district and circuit court judges, of which 21 have been confirmed by the Senate.
That's a 33 percent confirmation rate compared to the 57 percent first-year rate for President Clinton, 63 percent for Mr. Bush's father, and 91 percent for President Reagan.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush's only judicial nominee rated "unqualified" by the American Bar Association (ABA) skated through his Senate confirmation hearing with no opposition from Democrats. However, a committee or full Senate vote has not been scheduled.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Bunning, son of Republican Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, is nominated to the Eastern District Court of Kentucky.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Judicial Committee chairman and the only Democrat to attend the hearing, highlighted the ABA's concerns but did not hammer the issue.
"Mr. Bunning comes highly recommended by his home state senators, and that has always been a matter that people on both sides of the aisles have looked at, but the ABA finds him not qualified, which means a closer look [is needed]," Mr. Leahy said.
The ABA ranking does not automatically disqualify Mr. Bunning but means "every senator has to make up their mind," Mr. Leahy said.
Two members of the ABA's standing committee on the federal judiciary testified about its rating.
David Weiner of the ABA said his negative conclusion was based on interviews with circuit judges and other anonymous interviews, along with a study of Mr. Bunning's legal writing style, which he called "plain."
He said Mr. Bunning's 10 years of experience is two years short of the ABA rule, and he has limited experience working only for the government as opposed to private practice in civil matters.
"I have had only one client, the United States, but that client has taught me to respect the rule of law," Mr. Bunning said.
Mr. Weiner drew the ire of Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and other judges on the District Court testifying on behalf of Mr. Bunning, by suggesting Mr. Bunning was not qualified because he attended the University of Kentucky law school, rather than an Ivy League school, and graduated with an average ranking.
"As another UK graduate who graduated in the middle of his class, I thought that stung a little bit," Mr. McConnell said. "First of all, Mr. Weiner, I would not hold my breath on being invited to address the University of Kentucky's alumni law association."

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