- The Washington Times - Friday, June 7, 2002

The United States Justice Foundation is suing California's two Democratic senators and President Bush's point man there for their role in selecting federal judges.

Gary Kreep, president of the conservative-oriented public interest foundation, said the group opposes the use of a bipartisan commission to recommend candidates for federal judgeships to Mr. Bush.

The suit being filed today in Los Angeles federal district court seeks to keep the commission from holding secret meetings to vote on candidates in violation of a federal sunshine act.

Republican investor Gerald L. Parsky and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are named in the suit. Under an agreement with the White House, the two senators and Mr. Parsky submit a list of acceptable nominees to Mr. Bush.

The list is generated by four regional bipartisan subcommittees of six members. The two senators appoint a total of 12 Democrats to pre-selection committees and Mr. Parsky selects 12 Republicans.

Defenders of the deal say it gives the two Democratic senators a say in the federal judicial selection process and therefore an incentive not to block President Bush's nominees to the federal bench.

But critics say the deal, dubbed the "Parsky Commission," in effect gives Mrs. Boxer and Mrs. Feinstein veto power over which candidates for federal district judgeships may be forwarded to Mr. Bush.

The president chooses from the commission's list of nominees to be sent to the Democrat-controlled Senate for approval or rejection. Mr. Bush, White House chief political strategist Karl Rove and White House Counsel Al Gonzales all signed off on the year-old arrangement.

Mr. Kreep's foundation is bringing the legal action on behalf of Patrick Manshardt, a civil rights attorney affiliated with conservative activist David Horowitz's Individual Rights Foundation.

Mr. Manshardt said he is "filing this action under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Article II of the United States Constitution, because the process of nominating judicial nominees should be an open, not a secret process.

"The president should be permitted to appoint judges of his choosing, and members of the Senate who oppose his nominees should do so publicly, instead of having the opportunity to kill those nominations in quiet, which is the current process permitted by the Parsky Commission," Mr Manshardt said.

The suit has the support of House Republicans who oppose the Parsky Commission.

"The Parsky Commission is not working," said Rep. John T. Dolittle, California Republican. "I oppose it because it excludes House Republicans from our traditional role of having the whole responsibility of advising the president on judicial appointments when there is no Republican U.S. senator or governor."

But Rep. David Dreier, a California Republican who is chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he has forwarded to the Parsky committees the names of judicial candidates favored by the state party's delegation in the House. He also said Mr. Parsky has forwarded these names to the bipartisan selection committees that then interviewed the candidates.

"I am a strong supporter of the administration and of Jerry Parsky's commission," Mr Drier said.

Liberal voices have spoken approvingly of the arrangement.

"The Parsky commission does seem to be working in California," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.

The Los Angeles Times praised the bipartisan committee in a May 23 editorial, in which the paper also expressed disappointment that the White House is not extending the idea to other states that have two Democratic senators and a Democrat for governor.

"The idea behind it was a good one: to identify qualified and moderate candidates for the bench whom the president could nominate and whom both parties would vote to confirm," the paper said. "The committee has worked well; the first nominees it put forward were confirmed in less than three months, a record for the Senate."

Mr. Kreep said from what he has heard about the selection process and the people who pass on the candidates, any candidate who admits to being pro-life is out of luck. "That means that candidates who agree with President Bush's views need not apply to be a federal judge in California," Mr. Kreep said.

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