- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 28, 2002

Miguel Estrada has been held hostage for more than 500 days, but you've probably never heard his story. Just who is Miguel Estrada, and what nefarious forces have kept him under wraps for more than a year?

Mr. Estrada is President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the most important federal circuit in the country. President Bush nominated Mr. Estrada on May 9, 2001; but until this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, has held Mr. Estrada's nomination hostage.

Mr. Leahy refused to give Mr. Estrada so much as a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the past year and a half. Mr. Leahy's obstruction has placed the nominee in a kind of professional limbo, denied the president his constitutionally mandated authority to appoint judges, limited his fellow senators' right to advise and consent on judicial nominees, and deprived the nation of a first-rate jurist.

But Mr. Leahy is not acting alone he's simply carrying water for the left-wing groups that oppose Mr. Estrada's nomination, such as the National Organization for Women and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. So what is it about Mr. Estrada that has provoked such hostility? Despite an 18-month-long search through the minutiae of Mr. Estrada's life, these groups can't point to any ethical or legal transgressions. And even the liberal American Bar Association gave him the highest judicial fitness rating by unanimous vote.

Nonetheless, his critics accuse Mr. Estrada of being hold your breath a conservative. And everyone knows that conservatives, especially those who happen also to be Hispanic or black, are dangerous.

Mr. Estrada came to the United States when he was 17 years old. He spoke only rudimentary English. Yet within five years he graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia College in New York before earning a law degree, again with high honors, from Harvard. He has worked at the Justice Department in both Democrat and Republican administrations, is a member of one of the most prominent law firms in the country and has won two-thirds of the cases he argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Estrada proved he could succeed on his own, without racial or ethnic double standards or the patronage of leftist advocacy groups. That makes him automatically suspect. In the words of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mr. Estrada "has lived a very different life from that of most Latinos a life isolated from their experience and concerns."

Oh really? Let's see, he came here as an immigrant, like about 1 out of every 2 adult Hispanics. He worked hard, as do most Hispanics, who have among the highest labor force participation rates of any group. And he succeeded, brilliantly.

I have a feeling that it's this part of Mr. Estrada's life story that these groups have a problem with. After all, according to liberal victimology, aren't Hispanics typically supposed to be dropouts, needing a never-ending series of government programs in order to eke out even a meager existence? Their racism is the most pernicious kind, wrapped in phony compassion.

Mr. Estrada proves the lie to much of the left's stereotyping of Hispanics, and they can't stand it. Worse, they worry that if Mr. Estrada makes it onto the D.C. Circuit, he will likely become the first Hispanic nominated to the Supreme Court. This is a plum slot the Democrats hoped to reserve for one of their own, which explains why Mr. Leahy has behaved so abominably by tying up Mr. Estrada's nomination.

Mr. Leahy has engaged in unprecedented efforts to dig up dirt on Mr. Estrada. Since Mr. Estrada has only a limited public "paper trail" that opponents might scour, Mr. Leahy tried to force the Justice Department to release all of Mr. Estrada's internal memoranda, which he wrote for both his Republican and Democrat superiors in the solicitor general's office. Mr. Leahy's impudence earned the rebuke of every living solicitor from both parties, who complained in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.

Miguel Estrada has been held hostage to the liberal interest groups for too long. If ever anyone deserved to sit on the federal bench, Mr. Estrada certainly does. He will make a great appeals court judge, serving justice and the American people well, if only the Democrats will give him the chance.

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