- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

ASSOCIATED PRESS
The attempt by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to block a new commissioner named by President Bush probably would fail in court, congressional researchers say.
At issue is a seat held by Commissioner Victoria Wilson, who was appointed by President Clinton after the death of Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr.
Mr. Clinton noted in the appointment certificate that Miss Wilson's term would expire when Judge Higginbotham's would have, on Nov. 29, 2001.
Earlier this month, Mr. Bush appointed Cleveland labor lawyer Peter N. Kirsanow to a six-year term.
Commission Chairman Mary Frances Berry objected vehemently to the appointment, saying federal law stipulates that all commissioners are entitled to six-year terms. The commission refused to seat Mr. Kirsanow at its Dec. 7 meeting.
In a memo Friday to the House subcommittee on the Constitution, the Congressional Research Service said the panel's maneuver runs counter to Congress' intent when it reauthorized the commission in 1994.
It said Congress meant for commission members to serve staggered terms so that no one president can stack the panel with appointees.
Allowing Miss Wilson to remain for a full six years means her term "would expire closer to, and perhaps coincide with, the set of four other expirations," said the memo, obtained yesterday by the Associated Press.
"More than half of the offices ultimately coming due in one year or in relatively close proximity would substantially defeat the purpose of the structural scheme to regularize the period of time for which commissioners serve," the memo said.
It concluded that a reviewing court is likely to hold that the 1994 reauthorization did not undo the staggered-term requirement, which had been the explicitly-required practice of the commission, "and that Mr. Kirsanow is entitled to the vacant position on the commission."
Julia Tarver, an attorney for the commission, declined to comment on the dispute itself, saying it is pending before the D.C. Superior Court.
As for the memo, she said, "I don't think it's appropriate for anybody to comment about how a court would rule in this case."
The Civil Rights Commission was established in 1957 by President Eisenhower. The panel has no enforcement power and an annual budget of about $9 million for investigating civil rights complaints and publicizing its findings.
The commission has been criticized by conservatives for partisanship in the timing of some of its reports. For example, it released a report about brutality complaints against the New York Police Department when it seemed likely that Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani would run for the U.S. Senate.
The panel also released a report critical of Texas' record on affirmative action during the 2000 presidential campaign while Vice President Al Gore was attacking Mr. Bush's record as governor of Texas.


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