- The Washington Times - Friday, September 27, 2002

Democrats yesterday conceded that Miguel Estrada is an accomplished lawyer, but they questioned whether he should be confirmed to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, saying he may harbor conservative views.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who led the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, said the Honduras-born immigrant is biased and that would affect how he views and rules on the law.
"Ideology is not the only factor in determining how we vote, but for most of us, whether we want to admit it or not, it is a factor," Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Estrada said a judge's job requires putting aside his views and examining each case with an open mind.
"I am not worried in the least that anybody could detect any bias or lack of skill in my legal work," he said.
The American Bar Association unanimously awarded Mr. Estrada their highest rating well-qualified and he won 10 out of the 15 cases he argued before the Supreme Court.
However, his confirmation has languished for more than 500 days, and Democrats have targeted him for defeat.
"It's no understatement to say this is the single most important confirmation hearing this committee has conducted or will conduct this year," Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Estrada drew comparisons with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who, Mr. Schumer said, hid his views from the committee until he was confirmed.
"The minute Justice Thomas got to the court, he was doctrinaire," the senator said.
Mr. Estrada served as assistant solicitor general in the Justice Department from 1992 to 1997, leaving a limited paper trail to define his politics.
Democrats have demanded that the Justice Department turn over Mr. Estrada's working documents and private legal memos, but the department has refused, and all seven solicitors-general of both parties back that decision.
Democrats say they need the documents to learn more about Mr. Estrada, and spent most of their question-and-answer period with him urging him to pressure the department to release the documents.
Mr. Estrada has not blocked the release.
"I would like the world to know, I am exceptionally pleased with my legal work," Mr. Estrada said.
At the National Republican Senatorial Committee's annual dinner on Wednesday night, President Bush said he is "appalled" by Democrats who have denied two judges a full Senate vote by killing the nomination in committee.
"Miguel Estrada is an excellent lawyer. He's a fine man. He's an American success story. The Senate should not play politics with this nomination, for he will be an outstanding judge," Mr. Bush said.
The criticism of Mr. Estrada comes mainly from a former superior, Paul Bender, who called him an "ideologue."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the panel's ranking Republican, called Mr. Bender "an extremist even by liberal standards."
Mr. Bender favors abolishing all pornography laws, including those on child pornography, and tried to overturn the conviction of a pedophile and child pornographer, Mr. Hatch said.
"This is a politically motivated effort to smear Miguel Estrada and hurt his nomination," he said.
Two unnamed sources in an article by Jack Newfield in the Oct. 7 issue of the left-wing magazine the Nation magazine also accused Mr. Estrada of blocking liberal candidates to clerk for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Mr. Estrada denied the accusations yesterday, adding that he couldn't have done so as he only reviewed those resumes that Justice Kennedy sent to him.
Critics have questioned the portrayal of Mr. Estrada as someone who came to this country speaking little English and going on to become a successful lawyer. They say he came from a prominent family and attended private schools.
Mr. Estrada said he did attend a Catholic school, but would not use the word "prominent."
"I was fortunate enough to have parents who gave me a good middle-class upbringing. I have been very fortunate for all of the opportunities in this country. I take pride in that fact," Mr. Estrada said.
His father is deceased, but his mother attended the hearing and was introduced to senators beforehand.
"I hope you will return the favor," she said to a surprised Mr. Schumer. "I voted for you."

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