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With the Senate reorganization still in flux, judicial nominations hearings — and the partisan bickering that often follows them — probably won’t start for a few more weeks. But on Tuesday the new Democratic majority will offer something of a preview: a hearing to debate the criteria senators should use when voting on President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. “Should Ideology Matter?: Judicial Nominations 2001″ is the title of the event scheduled by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts. Several prominent commentators on judicial nominations are expected to testify. Schumer is calling Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, University of Chicago Law Professor Cass Sunstein, Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center, and Lloyd Cutler, who was White House Counsel under Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, is calling C. Boyden Gray, who was President George Bush’s White House Counsel (now a law partner of Cutler’s at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering), Northwestern University Law Professor Stephen Presser, and Clint Bolick of the libertarian Institute for Justice. “The role of ideology has been confusing” during past nominations battles, says Bradley Tusk, a spokesman for Schumer. He notes that it’s common for senators to use a pretext in opposing bench picks when their real problem with the nominees is ideological. Tusk adds that the hearing is designed to “come up with a standard that will work” when senators review the president’s bench picks. While that explanation may sound altogether proper and fitting, some Republicans and their supporters are skeptical. “This hearing is, in my view, a total charade,” says Bolick, arguing a hearing featuring liberal legal thinkers such as Tribe will merely give Democrats academic cover for blocking Bush�s judicial choices. “If we wanted to do that,” Tusk responds, “we wouldn’t bother to have this hearing.” Regardless of political stripe, the answer to the question — should ideology matter? — appears to be an easy one. “Ideology does matter and should matter,” says Bolick. But, he adds, “The standard should be whether a candidate is so extreme that he or she would be prevented from enforcing the law.” Sunstein, who along with Tribe and Greenberger recently spoke to Democratic senators about judicial standards, also says ideology is important. “Under ideal circumstances, the Senate gives the president a lot of room to maneuver,” he says. Sunstein, though, says today’s judiciary is tilted to the right in a similar way that the courts of 20 to 30 years ago were tilted to the left. Therefore, he concludes, “it’s entirely appropriate for the Senate to insist on a mix.” ABA WEIGHS IN Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., released the first ratings of Bush nominees from the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary last week. In March, Bush had kicked the group out of its 48-year role prescreening potential judicial nominees for the White House, but the ABA re-emerged as a major factor when the Democrats took control of the Senate last month. Leahy had promised to consider the ABA evaluations before commencing hearings on any individual nominee. So far, the ABA has completed rating seven Bush nominees, all among his first group of 11 candidates for federal appeals courts. The ABA committee unanimously gave “well qualified” ratings to John Roberts Jr., a Hogan & Hartson appellate advocate nominated for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and New York federal trial Judge Barrington Parker Jr., nominated for a seat on the 2nd Circuit. A majority of the ABA panel gave Judge Edith Brown Clement of the federal trial court in New Orleans, nominated for the 5th Circuit, a “well qualified” rating. A minority of the panel rated Clement “qualified.” A nominee to the 4th Circuit, Judge Dennis Shedd of the federal trial court in Columbia, S.C., also received a majority “well qualified,” minority “qualified” rating. Jeffrey Sutton, a Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue appellate lawyer nominated for the 6th Circuit, received a majority “qualified,” minority “well qualified” rating. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook, also named to the 6th Circuit, was unanimously rated “qualified.” The ABA panel was also unanimous in calling 4th Circuit Judge Roger Gregory “qualified.” Gregory was a Richmond, Va., litigator until late last year, when President Clinton, in a controversial move, named him to the 4th Circuit while Congress was out of session. Bush’s renomination of Gregory was seen as an effort to mute Democratic opposition to other selections. NOW AND DINH After a few months of heavy lifting by lawyers in the office of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s judge-picking team has begun to come together in the Justice Department. Upon their confirmations last month, former Georgetown University law professor Viet Dinh has started as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy, while Daniel Bryant, a former aide to former House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde, has started as assistant AG for Legislative Affairs. Dinh will coordinate the department’s efforts to move judicial nominees from pre-nomination vetting through the Senate confirmation. Bryant, among other duties as the department’s chief lobbyist, will shepherd the nominees through the Senate. NEW ARRIVALS As of Friday, Bush had named the following candidates for slots on federal trial courts around the country. They included, for the Washington, D.C., district court: John Bates, a Miller & Chevalier partner who from 1995 until 1997 was deputy independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation; and Reggie Walton, a former assistant drug czar under George Bush and now a D.C. Superior Court judge. For the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska: Laurie Smith Camp, deputy state attorney general. For the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina: U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Wooten. For the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah: University of Utah law Professor Paul Cassell, who last year led an unsuccessful fight to overturn the Supreme Court’s Miranda v. Arizona decision. For the 9th Circuit: Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl and Richard Clifton, a partner in Honolulu’s Cades Schutte Fleming and Wright. For a New Mexico seat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: Harris Hartz, a former federal prosecutor, former New Mexico appeals judge and currently special counsel at the Washington, D.C., offices of Stier, Anderson & Malone. For the U.S. Court of Federal Claims: Mary Ellen Coster Williams, a judge on the General Services’ Administration Board of Contract Appeals.

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