- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 5, 2002

The nomination of Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada as the first Hispanic jurist on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit continues to be delayed by Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats because of what Republicans say are unfounded accusations by a former top aide to Attorney General Janet Reno.
Former Deputy Solicitor General Paul Bender has publicly opposed the nomination, criticizing Mr. Estrada's qualifications and judicial temperament. This has become the mantra not only of committee Democrats but also of several liberal groups and others seeking to block the appointment.
Mr. Bender, known at the Justice Department as the "political deputy," said during a recent interview that Mr. Estrada was "too much of an ideologue to be an appellate judge you could not count on him to be fair or neutral I could not rely on his written work as a neutral statement of the law."
Those comments almost immediately found their way onto Internet sites and into fliers from several liberal groups and others opposed to the Estrada nomination. The Alliance for Justice referred to Mr. Bender on its Web site, saying, "Some who know Mr. Estrada have expressed concern about his ability to hear cases fairly."
The National Organization for Women, also citing Mr. Bender, said Mr. Estrada's "ability to listen with an open mind to different points of view" has been questioned.
But Mr. Bender's specific concerns over the Estrada nomination and his judicial qualifications remain unclear, although they have been extensively investigated by the American Bar Association and the National Hispanic Bar Association. Democrats have declined to elaborate on why the nomination has been held.
Mr. Bender, now a professor at Arizona State University, did not return calls to his office for comment.
The American Bar Association, with a membership of 400,000, gave Mr. Estrada its highest rating of "well qualified" after an investigation into his background and experience. A source close to the ABA probe said the inquiry included a "thorough review" of Mr. Bender's concerns.
Boston lawyer Roscoe Trimmier Jr., chairman of the ABA's standing committee on the federal judiciary, said the rating was approved by a unanimous vote, but he declined comment on any aspect of the investigation.
The National Hispanic Bar Association, with 25,000 members, also voted to ratify the nomination. NHBA President Angel Gomez said that while the organization's inquiry was covered by privacy concerns, "I can tell you that after an extensive review of Mr. Estrada's record and his qualifications, he was ratified for endorsement by the board of governors."
A source familiar with the NHBA probe said investigators also reviewed Mr. Bender's concerns, but, like the ABA, voted to ratify his nomination.
Ronald A. Klain, former Clinton White House associate counsel and Justice Department lawyer who later served as Vice President Al Gore's chief of staff, also has endorsed Mr. Estrada's nomination. In a letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, he called Mr. Estrada "an outstanding candidate who merits confirmation."
Mr. Estrada, 40, a partner at the Washington law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, declined to comment on the nomination.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bender has come under fire by Republicans who have described his efforts against Mr. Estrada as a "one-man borking campaign," referring to the defeat by Democrats of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Since that October 1987 vote, the word "borking" has come to mean discrediting someone with false accusations.
Mr. Bender, however, is no stranger to issues that incite contentious debate. He was publicly rebuked over his efforts to overturn the country's child pornography laws reprimanded by the Senate in a 100-0 vote and by President Clinton, who blocked his efforts to liberalize anti-smut statutes outlined in the Child Protection Act of 1984.

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