Here Come the Judges (again)

After a shaky truce, the political war over federal judges is heating up again in advance of the Congressional elections this fall. A battered White House sees a winning political hand in pushing the nominations of what it claims are "original intent" jurists with strong conservative philosophies. Emboldened Democrats meanwhile see an opportunity to take a stand against judicial nominees they believe are mere political hacks. It's a sub-theme to the elections that is going to evolve right up until the first Tuesday in November.

There are a few flash points, especially over appointments to the federal appeals courts. One is a fellow named Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination has been floating around since 2003. Kavanaugh is a former high-ranking official in the Bush White House whose claims to fame are his work pushing for the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and for his role in helping the current president win his fight during the Florida recount following the 2000 election. Kavanaugh came before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week even as the American Bar Association lowered his rating from "well-qualified" to "qualified."

Democrats see Kavanaugh as another crony of the President who doesn't even come to the table with the qualifications that Harriet Miers brought with her during her ill-fated run at the Supreme Court last year. Republicans see Kavanaugh as a way to invigorate their conservative base by making Republicans angry at Democrat efforts to block from service nominees who are perceived as "law and order types." The Kavanaugh nomination will offer interesting insight into how much the President's poll troubles are impacting his political power.

Another flash point is a nominee named Michael Brunson Wallace, who has the dubious honor of being the first judicial nominee in recent memory to receive a "not-qualified" rating by the ABA. According to his bio, Wallace is general counsel of the Mississippi Republican Party with strong ties to the national party. Will Wallace's troubles doom Kavanaugh? Will Kavanaugh sink Wallace? Will the so-called "gang of fourteen" more moderate Senators, who saved us all from fillibuster hell last fall, be able to broker a deal in an election year when so much of the political climate has changed? Stay tuned. Now that the battle over judges has been rejoined, it figures to stay white hot.

By  |  May 10, 2006; 6:00 PM ET
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Comments

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It isn't good for our sense of an impartial judiciary for either political party to stack the courts with the most extreme ideologues from their ranks.

Mr Bush continues to harm our country's future with his presidential decider-ness ... be it the conduct of war (think Iraq & Bin Laden), fiscal management (think deficits), protecting domestic tranquility (think Katrina), function of federal government (think promoting synchophants while truth-sayers are jettisoned), uniting our disparate electorate (think judicial nominees) .... sad, sad, sad ...

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | May 10, 2006 07:17 PM

Can you help the Post figure out how to brak it's contract with Deborah Howell?

Can you provide an assessment of the legal jeopardy that Bob Woodward may be in as a result of the Plame investigation?

Can you explain the difference between anger and violence to Richard Cohen ... before he faints in the face of some profane e-mails?

Thanks.

Posted by: AJ | May 10, 2006 09:19 PM

Can anyone think of another profession of equal stature wherein the most prominent body of one's peers can say that one is "not qualified" for promotion, yet one may still attain that promotion? Yes, the ABA is (at its basest level) saying Wallace doesn't have what it takes to be a federal appeals judge, but instead of withdrawing his nomination (the honorable thing), the President is still pushing for it, and the Senate may still vote on it and possibly even approve the nomination! Thank God I don't practice!

Posted by: TulaneJD | May 11, 2006 02:13 PM

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