- The Washington Times - Monday, November 26, 2001

Judicial confirmations going faster than ever

Had The Washington Times consistently criticized the slow pace of filling judicial vacancies during the six years in which Republicans most recently held the Senate majority or, during that time, had you rallied on behalf of the Clinton nominees who were left waiting as long as four years without a hearing, your Nov. 21 editorial "Sen. Leahy's judicial hostages" might not ring so hollow.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's record in the second half of this year shows that we are moving faster on more judicial nominations than in previous years. Since I became chairman and the Senate Judiciary Committee was assigned its members in July, 18 judges had been confirmed as of Nov. 14. This is 10 more than were confirmed by the same date in the first year of the Clinton administration and eight more than were approved by this point in the first year of George H.W. Bush's term. Another 10 nominees already have had hearings, and the total confirmations by the end of the year will approach 30, exceeding the total for the first year of the Clinton administration and doubling the total for the first year of the first Bush administration.
Since July, we have held nine hearings involving 28 judicial nominees. We convened two unprecedented hearings during the August recess, including one that no Republican senator bothered to attend. Since the terrible events of September 11, under the most trying and unusual of circumstances, we have managed to hold five hearings for 21 nominees. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, I chaired a confirmation hearing for two nominees who had to drive to Washington for the hearing because all commercial flights remained grounded. On Oct. 18, with all Senate office buildings closed and work disrupted by anthrax contamination, the Judiciary Committee kept working, borrowing a room in the Capitol and holding another hearing for five more judicial nominees. We held more hearings on Oct. 4, Oct. 25 and Nov. 7. Indeed, among those you list as "hostages," we already have held hearings on 10 and are scheduling hearings on more.
During the almost 61/2 years that Republicans most recently controlled the Judiciary Committee, they held no confirmation hearings in 34 of those 76 months, and in 30 other months, they held only one. By contrast, we have held hearings every month, including two hearings in July, two in August and three in October.
The Judiciary Committee is slated to hold another business meeting this week, at which nine additional judicial nominations are likely to be reported favorably to the Senate for final votes. We have held more hearings for more nominees and reported more nominees than in previous years, and the Senate has confirmed more judges to the federal courts than in previous years.
We also have been acting on nominees faster than in the most recent period of Republican control. President Bush's nominations confirmed since this summer have been acted upon within 60 days, on average, of receipt of an American Bar Association peer review. This comes after years in which the average time for Senate action on those confirmed had lengthened to more than 200 days. We have cut the consideration time for those confirmed to the Courts of Appeals to less than one-third of the average time it took during President Clinton's last term.
At the time Republicans took charge of the Judiciary Committee in 1995, there were 65 judicial vacancies. When they turned over the gavel this summer, we inherited 103 vacancies, which rose to 111 by the time the committee was organized and hearings could get under way. In the recent past, some nominees waited more than four years without ever getting a hearing and still never got a vote. When one-fifth of Mr. Clinton's nominees did not get hearings and votes during the last 61/2 years, the editorial page of The Washington Times did not complain about judicial hostages. Furthermore, was any protest heard from the page when a Republican Senate refused to act on more than half of Mr. Clinton's nominees to appellate courts during the last 21/2 years? Funny, but I don't seem to recall any.
In the face of disruptions that have made this anything but a typical year in the Senate, our record in acting on judicial nominations does credit to the Senate.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY
Chairman
Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington

Afghan women have more immediate concerns than 'women's rights'

Your coverage of women in Afghanistan does a disservice to Afghan women by focusing on a narrow list of "women's rights" issues ("Afghan women celebrate freedom from tyranny" Nov. 21).
Afghan women are concerned about their rights. However, ask any Afghan woman in a refugee camp to list her primary concerns, and she is more likely to talk about the need for peace, health care, food, education and shelter than about having to wear the burqa.
Demilitarization; demining; infrastructure reconstruction; economic development; the reform of police, courts and the judiciary; the redress of war crimes; and the integration of international human rights standards into local law and practice these are all objectives that women in Afghanistan share equally with men. Women in Afghanistan should be equal partners with men in achieving them.

JULIE MERTUS
Washington

Julie Mertus is assistant professor of peace and conflict resolution at the American University School of International Service and author of "War's Offensive on Women: The Humanitarian Challenge in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan" (2000).

Traffic cameras more than a 'money grab'

It is sad, but unfortunately not surprising, that the District's traffic-camera program, as exposed by The Washington Times, is a mere "money grab" ("Traffic cameras called a 'money grab'," Nov. 21).
Traffic cameras are just the latest incarnation of a phenomenon, born (appropriately) in the Clinton era, of using the judicial system as a means to shake down taxpayers and American businesses.
Over the past decade, in industries ranging from guns to tobacco to Microsoft, greedy politicians, aided and abetted by even greedier trial lawyers, have repeatedly perverted justice with groundless lawsuits. These suits have cost taxpayers millions in tax dollars and billions in lost economic growth.
Wisely, President Bush's Justice Department has called a halt to some of these exercises in greed (most importantly the Microsoft suit). Hopefully, the administration will continue the process of getting the Justice Department out of the revenue-raising business by soon shutting down the suit against America's tobacco industry.
Unfortunately, there's not much that Mr. Bush can do about the District's traffic-camera racket. That will require District voters to wisen up and throw out the rascals who came up with this nonsense.

JOHN BERTHOUD
President
National Taxpayers Union
www.ntu.org
Alexandria


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