- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

A Senate panel today takes up another contentious judicial bench pick, but unlike the bitter partisan battle that has led to the defeat of Judge Charles W. Pickering, this nomination is expected to survive.
Paul G. Cassell, nominee to the District Court of Utah, unsuccessfully tried to overturn the Miranda decision in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
Mr. Cassell will be questioned sharply by Democrats on that issue during his hearing today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but his nomination will receive enough votes to proceed to the Senate floor, Republicans said yesterday.
"Democrats don't like to assassinate two in a row," said one Senate Republican aide.
District Judge Pickering of Mississippi, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was rejected by the Senate panel last week in three separate 10-9 party-line votes.
The vote was delayed more than two weeks as the White House and Republicans lobbied Democrats, but none would change his vote.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking committee member, called the defeat of Judge Pickering a "lynching" by outside liberal groups, and other Republicans said they had not seen such a character assassination since Attorney General John Ashcroft's confirmation hearings.
Judge Pickering's nomination has not been withdrawn, but Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, has vowed not to bring it up for a full Senate vote, effectively killing any chance of confirmation.
Republicans say Mr. Cassell's stances on some issues will endear him to Democrats.
Mr. Cassell's record as a law professor is strong on victims' rights, and he has supported California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Victims' Rights Amendment. Mr. Cassell helped push through a statute that allowed the families of victims in the Oklahoma City bombing to watch the trial of Timothy McVeigh on closed-circuit television.
"It would be difficult with Cassell if they really want to oppose him, because there is nothing really to oppose," said John Nowacki, director of legal policy for the Free Congress Foundation.
"He will probably get a fair amount of questioning about Miranda, but there is nothing to reasonably object to," Mr. Nowacki said.
Democrats "overplayed their hand" in their smearing of Judge Pickering and are wary of "crying wolf," Mr. Nowacki said.
"People will catch on there is nothing to it and that it all stems from an ideological litmus test and there are no real grounds to oppose the nominees," Mr. Nowacki said.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott is pressuring Democrats to hold hearings on President Bush's first nominations submitted in May, which include several conservatives who would face tough hearings.
"There is a crisis brewing in our judicial system when President Bush's qualified and experienced Circuit Court nominations are languishing in committee, some for almost a year," Mr. Lott said yesterday.
"It's time the Senate Judiciary Committee does its job and sends these nominees to the Senate floor for confirmation," Mr. Lott said.
The nominees likeliest to spark opposition are Terrence Boyle to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th Circuit, Miguel A. Estrada to the D.C. Circuit, and Michael W. McConnell to the 10th Circuit.
Mr. Sutton successfully argued before the Supreme Court that state employees could not use federal disability rights to collect money for job discrimination, angering disability-rights activists. Mr. Boyle, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, was blocked by Democrats when first nominated a decade ago by then-President George Bush. Mr. Estrada is a partner in the law firm that represented the younger Mr. Bush in his Supreme Court fight with Vice President Al Gore over the 2000 presidential vote recount in Florida. Mr. McConnell is conservative on abortion and church-state issues.
Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican, threatened retribution for the defeat of his friend, Judge Pickering, and has placed a hold on a staffer of Mr. Daschle's who has been nominated to fill a Democratic slot on the Federal Communications Commission.
Republicans now are championing Andrew Levin for the nomination. Mr. Levin works for Democratic Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan on the Commerce Committee, and pits Democrats against Democrats.
"I'm not going to let go of it for a long time," Mr. Lott said Thursday after the committee vote on Judge Pickering.


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