- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

As senators on the Judiciary Committee prepare for more partisan fights over President Bush’s judicial nominees, lawmakers of both parties are supporting a New York bench nominee with an unusual distinction: a “majority unqualified” rating from the American Bar Association.

Judge Dora L. Irizarry, a former New York state judge born in Puerto Rico, was originally recommended by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and nominated in April by President Bush to a seat on the federal district court for the Eastern District of New York.

Mr. Schumer introduced Judge Irizarry to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday and conveyed the regret of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, for a scheduling conflict that prevented her from being unable to join him to express her support, as well.

Mr. Schumer, normally one of the most vocal critics of Mr. Bush’s nominees, said it was a “particular pleasure” for him to introduce Judge Irizarry.

“Her nomination is an example of what happens when the process works properly,” he said. “She’s had an excellent record. I am impressed by her background.”

But apparently, many of those who have worked most closely with Judge Irizarry don’t agree.

“The majority of the lawyers interviewed raised concerns about Judge Irizarry’s judicial temperament,” said Patricia M. Hynes, who evaluated the judge for the American Bar Association (ABA).

A “starkly common theme” is that the judge was “gratuitously rude,” “flew off the handle in a rage for no apparent reason,” “did not fully listen to attorneys’ legal arguments,” and “did not have a good grasp of the legal issues presented to her.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and chairman of the committee, said in a prepared statement, “Judge Irizarry comes to us with an impressive record of academic achievement and public service.”

Mr. Hatch also invited several supporters of the judge to “dispel any lingering questions about Judge Irizarry’s temperament.” In noting her “fitness for the federal bench,” he mentioned “her legal aptitude and experience, her integrity and, most notably, her judicial temperament.”

It was a highly unusual display of bipartisan enthusiasm for a judicial nominee. Democrats have harshly criticized many of Mr. Bush’s nominees and lodged filibusters against three.

Today, for instance, the Judiciary Committee plans to vote on Mississippi Judge Charles W. Pickering, nominated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Pickering’s nomination was spiked last year when Democrats controlled the committee.

He was renominated and is expected to pass out of the committee on a party line vote today, but faces a filibuster on the Senate floor.

Two of the Democratic filibusters have been against judicial nominees rated “unanimous well qualified” by the ABA, which Mr. Schumer once called the “gold standard by which judicial candidates are judged.”

Facing little scrutiny however is Judge Irizarry, despite her rating of “not qualified” by each of the 15 ABA committee members who evaluated her.

“In my service on the committee, I have either conducted or reviewed literally hundreds of reports on judicial nominees,” Ms. Hynes said. “I have never before experienced such widespread and consistent negative comments about a nominee’s temperament.”

Nevertheless, she enjoys bipartisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I know that the ABA has found her not qualified,” Mr. Schumer said. “But their concerns are not based on her legal knowledge or her intellectual abilities. Everybody gives her high marks on those.”

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