Some say Clinton's appointees are too liberal; professors report middle-of-the-road decisions

by Robert Schoenberger

Daily Cougar Senior Staff

Conservative presidents appoint conservative judges. Liberals appoint liberals. What does this say about President Bill Clinton?

In the never-ending search to decipher Clinton's ideological values, three professors, including one from the University of Houston, have analyzed the decisions of Clinton's appointees.

UH Political Science Professor Robert Carp and his associates, Ronald Stidham of Appalachian State University and Donald Songer of the University of South Carolina, found no real surprises. Their report finds that Clinton's appointees are firmly in the middle of the road.

Overall, judges appointed by Clinton have a 46 percent liberal rating. Although this figure is 10 percentage points above the voting records of Ronald Reagan's judges, it is only 2 percentage points higher that Gerald Ford's rating.

Clinton appointee decisions are 7 percentage points less liberal than those of Jimmy Carter.

The professors determined the liberal rating by analyzing the decisions made in three types of cases: criminal, civil rights and liberties, and labor and economic regulation.

In the criminal cases, a decision in favor of the defendant was considered liberal, Carp said. The study covered all published case decisions from simple objections to the final ruling of the court.

"This only represents a tiny fraction of the motions handed down by federal judges," Carp said. "The purpose of this study is not to say this is all that is going on in a courtroom. This is a comparison of Democratic and Republican judges."

One of the few surprises in the study was the relatively low liberal rate of Clinton judges in civil rights cases. The professors called any decision that broadened civil rights liberal.

Carp said he expected the number to be higher considering the large numbers of women and minorities the president has moved into judicial positions.

The report speculated the reason for the low rating in civil rights could be that many of Clinton's minority appointees came from large law firms.

"They may be black, women or Hispanic, but they are already part of the establishment," Carp said.

One of Clinton's chief appointment advisers disagreed with Carp's reasons. Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Policy Development Elanor Dean Acheson said, "(The low numbers) have nothing to do with the individuals selected but more to do with the law.

"(Civil Rights) law has changed a fair amount from the direction it was heading from the `70s."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he still believes Clinton's appointees are too liberal.

"President Clinton has sent judicial activists to the federal appellate courts as well, and the effects to his approach to judicial selection are even felt as high as the Supreme Court," Hatch said in a March 25 address to the Senate.

"This is not good for the nation, which must live under the permissive rules set by these liberal judges when they attempt to rid our streets of crime and drugs," Hatch said.

Clinton appointee decisions in criminal justice cases were 33 percent liberal, according to Carp's report. Although this put his nominees in front of Reagan's nominees by 10 percentage points, Clinton's judges were only 4 percentage points more liberal than George Bush's appointees.

The highest concentration of liberal decisions from Clinton judges came from labor and economic regulation cases. His 65 percent liberal rating beats even Carter's 62 percent. The most liberal Republican judges came from Gerald Ford with a 55 percent rating.

The professors called decisions in which judges favored workers or government regulators liberal.

Acheson said one of the main reasons for the lack of a clear political direction in Clinton's appointees stems from his standards.

"We don't do any kind of ideological review of candidates," Acheson said. "What the president asked for were the best people available."

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