- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2002

The chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights yesterday sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to "disavow any attempt to further attempt to force the acceptance of an appointee to Commissioner Victoria Wilson's position."

Mary Frances Berry told the president she was "deeply dismayed by the antagonism exhibited" by the administration toward the commission.

Miss Berry and several other Democratic-leaning commissioners on the eight-member panel maintain that the term of Miss Wilson, who was appointed in 2000, ends in 2006.

But Miss Wilson was appointed to fill an unexpired term, which the Justice Department and the White House counsel contend ended in November 2001.

The White House appointed Cleveland labor lawyer Peter Kirsanow to fill the seat, but Miss Berry last month refused to allow Mr. Kirsanow to participate on the commission, challenging the legitimacy of Mr. Bush's appointment.

White House records indicate that Miss Wilson's term was to expire Nov. 29, 2001. But Miss Wilson and Miss Berry have said the early expiration was a mistake, arguing that Miss Wilson should serve a full six-year term.

The Justice Department and Mr. Kirsanow have filed a federal lawsuit against Miss Wilson, asking a judge to declare Miss Wilson's term to be completed. Miss Berry and Commissioner Cruz Reynoso have joined the lawsuit as defendants, also naming the commission itself as a party to the lawsuit.

A hearing has been set for Jan. 14.

"The continued strife caused by your administration's efforts to infringe upon the independence of the commission is not in the public's interest," Miss Berry said in her letter.

Yesterday's letter was another jab at the administration from Miss Berry, a declared political independent and staunch liberal who has contributed $20,000 to the Democratic Party since 1991.

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