- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2001

The first casualty of the Jeffords defection came the day after the senator from Vermont left the Republican Party and left it a minority in the Senate when Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, asked President Bush to withdraw his name from consideration for a federal judgeship. However, Mr. Coxs decision shouldnt be relegated to a historical footnote without first being examined for what it reveals about the lamentable state of the Judiciary Committee as it comes under Democratic leadership.

Besides informing Mr. Bush of his decision, Mr. Cox wrote letters to California´s two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. Both liberal lawmakers had threatened to block Mr. Cox´s expected nomination to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by exercising their "blue-slip" power, which, according to a new Democratic interpretation (adamantly contested by Republicans), amounts to a procedural kiss of death by which a home-state senator may pre-emptively veto, or "blue slip," any judicial nominee for any reason.

Given that Mrs. Feinstein ultimately reconsidered her position, informing the White House on May 24 (the same day Mr. Jeffords left the Republican Party) that she would not be using her "blue slip" to block a hearing on Mr. Cox´s nomination, the congressman´s letter to Mrs. Feinstein sounded a conciliatory tone as he explained his chief concern that the likely delay his nomination would now encounter could leave his 700,000 constituents without representation for as long as a year.

But there was more to be said which Mr. Cox saved for the blue-slip-happy Mrs. Boxer. "I will continue to oppose this anti-democratic abuse of the 'blue-slip´ policy particularly as it applies to the Court of Appeals," Mr. Cox wrote. "A single senator, out of 18 who represent the Ninth Circuit, should not be able to deny the Senate the opportunity to conduct a hearing and a democratic vote on presidential nominees. At a minimum, the views of other liberal Democratic Senators representing the Ninth Circuit, such as Sen. Ron Wyden (who would be strongly supportive were I nominated), should be given equal weight in determining when a hearing and a vote can be scheduled."

The California conservative went on to make another crucial point. "You have also made it clear that you believe it is acceptable to oppose a prospective judicial nominee on the basis of his or her political views," he wrote. "But this view is outside the mainstream of our entire constitutional tradition, because it implies that judges´ political views should be expected to play a role in the administration of justice. It is in fact the duty of every judge to set aside his or her personal and political views and impartially apply the laws of the United States. Hundreds of political conservatives and political liberals on the bench have succeeded admirably in keeping their own predilections from affecting a fair, reasonable, and accurate reading of our law. Federal judges Mikva, Buckley and Wiggins former members of Congress each are recent outstanding examples."

"Thus," he continued, "the fact that you disagree with my commitment to lower taxes, less spending, welfare reform, or a national missile defense should be irrelevant to a common understanding of the rule of law. It is your role, and mine, to debate and determine the law of the land through the democratic process. It is for judges impartially to apply that law to the facts of each case, and to do so with a high degree of predictability."

Once upon a time, this was the stuff of high school civics courses. Now, U.S. senators such as Mrs. Boxer and her ideological cohorts on the Judiciary Committee seem to be in dire need of remedial help. It is too awfully bad that Mr. Cox, as accomplished as he is, won´t be able to offer it to them as an outstanding judicial nominee.


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