Hi 76 / Lo 57
|Volume 68, Issue 123,
Tuesday, April 1, 2003
Hatch decries Democratsi tactics
Senator says politics shouldnit be a factor when choosing judges
By Ray Hafner
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told a UH audience Monday that he fears the "smear tactics" being used by Democrats to block federal judge appointments will undermine the notion of an independent judiciary and convert it into a politicized extension of the Senate.
Sen. Orin Hatch accepted a gray cowboy hat as a gift at the end of his UH Law Center lecture. At the lecture, Hatch commented on how politics has played in judging judicial nominations.
Nathan Lindstrom/The Daily Cougar
The current process that allows the Senate to "advise and consent" as authorized by the U.S. Constitution has "devolved" and turned "into a political gauntlet that even the most saintly nominee would find terrifying," the senator said. "Some of the best candidates, quite rationally, drop out of the process altogether."
Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he did not expect to see legislation that deals with the problem but spoke of the need to create a culture of civility.
"Whoever the president is, heis entitled to a certain amount of deference," Hatch said. He said that during President Clintonis term, he did not vote against a single nominee in committee, because he felt the nominees deserved a full Senate vote.
But changing the tactics of "extremist" political interest groups is like "trying to teach lions to be vegetarians," he said.
Hatch came armed with a list of recent nominees who had their votes blocked by Senate Democrats, including Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owens and Charles Pickering.
In Estradais case, Democrats turned to a filibuster, the biggest tool from their "arsenal of weapons of mass obstruction," to block a full Senate vote, Hatch said. Indeed, Estradais nomination is still being stalled from going to a vote.
The character assassination of Estrada was one of the worst because he proffered a stellar record, Hatch said. Democrats, however, complained he was too conservative.
Estrada graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and has argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court -- which he did with a speech impediment, Hatch said.
Most glaring, Hatch said, was that the American Bar Association gave Estrada its highest rating, saying unanimously he was well-qualified.
Hatch also deflected Democratic criticism that the Republican senators did the same thing to Clintonis appointments. President Reagan scored the most number of confirmed candidates during his eight years in office with 382 judges. Clinton got 377 appointees into their jobs.
The rigorous investigation into candidatesi papers and decisions will produce a "chilling effect" on dialogue and scholarship, Hatch said. If that happens, candidates will come before the judiciary committee as "blank slates," having never ruled or commented on any controversial case.
Hatch was introduced as an "old and dear friend" by UH President Arthur K. Smith, who worked with Hatch while Smith was president of the University of Utah.
Hatchis speech at the UH Law Center was the fourth annual Ruby Kless Sondock Lecture in Legal Ethics and was hosted by the Law Centeris dean, Nancy Rapoport.
Rapoport presented Hatch with a gift after the lecture, remarking that in academic circles some professors think Hatch wears a white hat and others think he wears a black hat.
She gave him a gray cowboy hat. After donning the headgear, Hatch remarked,
"I always wanted to be a Texan."
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