By Glenn Sugameli, senior legislative counsel, Earthjustice - 02/07/08 05:44 PM EST
The article “Specter pushed on judges” (Feb. 6) notes that President Bush “will hold a public event with judicial branch nominees in the East Room Thursday morning at which he will press Congress …” Bush, however, is choosing nominees because they will not be confirmed, creating artificial vacancies to inflame his right-wing base.
Bush disdains Republican and Democratic senators’ constitutional advise-and-consent suggestions on Bush district court judges and other confirmable, conservative Republicans. The Richmond Times-Dispatch called Jim Haynes’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals nomination “deliberately provocative.” As The (Baltimore) Sun editorialized, another 4th Circuit choice, Rod Rosenstein, “seems primarily intended as a poke in the eye” to Maryland’s senators, who had publicly opposed Rosenstein and suggested any of Maryland’s three Bush-appointed and five other Republican district judges.
In the 3rd Circuit, a bait-and-switch victimized New Jersey’s senators. After they agreed to Bush’s first choice of Noel Hillman, the actual nominee, Shalom Stone, was announced before the senators were informed.
Bush wouldn’t discuss then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s (R-R.I.) 1st Circuit recommendation, which was supported by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). He recently nominated William E. Smith without consulting Reed and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Michigan Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin “have said since 2001 that we wanted to work with the White House on recommending and giving input” on two 6th Circuit vacancies.
Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) interviewed many candidates for two 4th Circuit vacancies and jointly recommended a Bush district court judge and four others. Bush ensured a continuing vacancy by nominating E. Duncan Getchell, whom they had rejected.
Getchell has since been withdrawn, and Bush’s current 4th Circuit nominees are Steve A. Matthews and Robert J. Conrad Jr.
Matthews was an officer and director of Landmark Legal Foundation, which tried to nominate Rush Limbaugh for a Nobel Peace Prize. Landmark is headed by Mark R. Levin, who called global warming “nonsense” and “phony,” and condemned Sens. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) as “liberal idiots.” In Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America, Levin thanked Matthews for having “supported me in all I do” and wrote that the Supreme Court was “merely upholding the Constitution” in its long-discredited 1936 ruling that Congress lacks authority to regulate employer-employee relations.
Conrad’s “inflammatory writings” include a Catholic Dossier letter identifying himself as a “federal prosecutor,” denouncing Sister Helen Prejean as a “church-hating nun” and insisting that he “found only liberal drivel” in her classic book Dead Man Walking. Implausibly, he later claimed to “respect and admire Sister Helen.”
Sitting by designation, Conrad joined a notorious 4th Circuit decision, reversing a district court to allow burying streams with mine waste. Three of eight circuit judges voted for rehearing because the decision “eviscerates” key Clean Water Act language and undermines its protective purpose.
Bush should fill vacancies by withdrawing his confrontational selections in addition to Getchell and respecting the Senate’s constitutional advise-and-consent role.