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GONZALES IS WISE AND WELL QUALIFIED FOR SUPREME COURT To the editor: Stuart Taylor Jr.’s hatchet job on the attorney general (“Nice Guy, but No Justice,” July 18, 2005, Page 62) reached a new low in the unrelenting attacks on this fine public servant. As a former deputy counsel to the president who served in the White House with Alberto Gonzales for more than two years, I hardly know where to begin to refute Taylor’s piece. But here are a few of the lowlights: • To support his view that Gonzales has an undistinguished record, Taylor levels a number of unsupported assertions, including that Gonzales was a “journeyman” partner (at Vinson & Elkins) and wrote “pedestrian” opinions (as a member of the Texas Supreme Court). But the oddest charge is that Gonzales “typically says little or nothing during internal debates and discussions among administration lawyers.” Imagine that! Someone in Washington who actually listens to others before making a decision. Or writing a column.

• Taylor asks rhetorically, “Might it just be that Gonzales tells Bush what Bush wants to hear?” Yet he cites no facts to support his insulting suggestion that Gonzales is a yes man. Certainly Gonzales has told the president many things he didn’t want to hear; he is simply too much of a professional to crow about it in the press. • Taylor concludes that Gonzales is not fair-minded by citing a partisan attack on the president’s clemency record in Texas, but ignores Gonzales’ responses to those charges, including in his confirmation hearing to be attorney general. Who’s not fair-minded? • Taylor contends that policies adopted on the basis of advice in part from Gonzales have been rebuffed in the Supreme Court and in a “string of defeats in lower federal courts.” But the administration’s policies have not suffered the universal repudiation that Taylor suggests. Just last month, the D.C. Circuit (in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) upheld many of the administration’s actions that Taylor attacks. • Taylor says that appointing Gonzales would be an example of cronyism. But Gonzales was not a friend of the president who was appointed to successive jobs (he did not know the president 10 years ago), but rather an appointee who flourished and became a friend. This is not cronyism. This is merit. • Taylor cites a handful of snippets from Gonzales’ full-day confirmation testimony and concludes that he was “evasive and inept.” But plainly, the majority of senators who looked at his entire record concluded otherwise. I have no idea whether the president will ever choose to nominate Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court. But as someone who has worked closely not only with him but also with Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr., I am confident that Gonzales would be up to the task. He is a thoughtful, careful, wise, and talented lawyer. He is a dedicated public servant. And while no one is immune from fair commentary, he deserves far better than the unsupported smears cobbled together in Stuart Taylor’s column. David G. Leitch Dearborn, Mich.


A SIMPLE ETHICAL PROBLEM: TAKING FREE GIFTS To the editor: In my July 18 op-ed on private judicial seminars (“Stop Judges Tripping on Corporate Dollar,” Page 60), I posed a simple ethical question: Why should federal judges be allowed to accept the large travel gifts associated with these seminars when federal prosecutors can’t? I argued that judges should be prohibited from personally accepting such gifts. And I described proposed legislation that provides for taxpayer funding of judicial education and requires an ethics review for private judicial seminars comparable to that used by executive branch attorneys. In their Aug. 1 response (“Are They Swaying Judges?” Page 54), J.B. Ruhl and Peter Appel ignore these issues, candidly asserting it is “beyond [their] expertise to opine on what is or is not within the bounds of judicial ethics.” They also disregard the glaring conflicts caused by particular seminars that have left litigants feeling outraged and disadvantaged. Instead, they argue that the seminars offered by the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment do not advance a political agenda. But FREE itself asserts that its seminars promote a “unifying theme” that rejects “top-down, command and control environmentalism,” by which it means most federal environmental regulation. And a FREE trustee has acknowledged the relationship between FREE’s seminars and litigation campaigns to challenge federal regulations. Ruhl and Appel suggest that corporate representatives do not attend the seminars. Wrong again. For example, FREE invited Texaco’s former CEO to lecture judges on “The Environment: A CEO’s Perspective.” This seminar was especially problematic because the audience included the trial judge in a billion-dollar lawsuit against Texaco for environmental despoliation, a case in which the lecturer was a potential witness. Ruhl and Appel contend that FREE’s seminars are “balanced.” Perhaps sometimes, but certainly not always, by FREE’s own admission. If criticism by ethics scholars and editorial boards has caused it to provide more balance, so much the better. But the primary ethical problem with these seminars is not what is taught but FREE’s gifts to judges. The legislation we support applies to all privately funded judicial seminars, regardless of political perspective. If a federal judge wants to attend a private seminar, the judiciary should pay the expenses and independently confirm that the seminar is in the public interest. Timothy J. Dowling Community Rights Counsel Washington, D.C.

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