- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

Circuit Court nominee Judge Dennis W. Shedd faced tough questioning yesterday by a Senate panel, including one Democrat who threatened to vote against the candidate's confirmation unless he detailed his views on abortion.

The South Carolina district judge was nominated by President Bush to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He declined to state his abortion views, saying it would require his recusal in future court hearings on the issue.

"I will not do anything but apply the law," Judge Shedd said in response to questions from Sen. Charles E. Schumer.

Mr. Schumer said he would resubmit specific questions to be answered in writing. "That is not acceptable to get my vote," the New York Democrat said.

Judge Shedd, a former staffer for the Senate Judiciary Committee, fielded numerous questions from that same panel on a court case involving the flying of the Confederate battle flag over the statehouse dome. However, Judge Shedd never reached the merits of the issue.

Sen. Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat, accused Judge Shedd of downplaying the importance of the issue.

"These people turned to the government for a fair hearing, and it sounds like you were minimizing its importance," Mr. Kohl said.

In a complaint brought by white plaintiffs, Judge Shedd said he questioned their constitutional claim that the flag should be removed because it was offensive.

"I did not make light of the constitutional claim," Judge Shedd said. "A lot of things are controversial; during Vietnam some thought the American flag was controversial. I said it was not a strong enough theory that just because it's controversial, it's unconstitutional."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member, said there is a "repugnant attempt to smear Judge Shedd by taking his words entirely out of their context with regard to the neuralgic issue of the Confederate flag."

"Judge Shedd never addressed the merits of the Confederate flag issue. Instead, he stayed the federal case to permit a parallel state action to go forward," Mr. Hatch said.

Judge Shedd's nomination is opposed by women's organizations and the South Carolina Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who say he is hostile to civil rights issues.

However, Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Democrat, said the information used by "ladies groups and NAACP is hearsay" and unfounded.

"Judge Shedd is my kind of judge hard and tough, but hard and tough on both sides," Mr. Hollings said. "He has an outstanding record of sound judgment."

The NAACP's statement that Judge Shedd had "a deep and abiding hostility to civil rights" was a "breathtaking charge," Mr. Hatch said.

"I have to tell you I was outraged by this. It is a distortion far beyond the pale of decency and I hope my colleagues will be quick to repudiate such rabid practices," Mr. Hatch said.

"In part, I am outraged because there are some who would profile Judge Shedd as merely a white male from the South and start from there to give him a certain treatment," Mr. Hatch said.

Republicans say Democrats are engaging in a pattern of character assassination by portraying Mr. Bush's judicial nominees from the South as racists.

Judge Shedd's other home-state senator, 99-year-old Strom Thurmond, made a rare appearance and statement to support the nominee, who worked for the South Carolina Republican for 10 years.

"Judge Shedd possesses the highest sense of integrity, a thorough knowledge of the law and a good judicial temperament," said Mr. Thurmond.

"He is a man of impeccable character and will make an outstanding addition to the federal appellate bench."

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