Judicial Nominee Distances Herself From Past Positions (NY Times, April 2, 2003, registration required): Carolyn B. Kuhl, President Bush's nominee to a federal appeals court, faced a withering barrage of questions from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee today and responded that many of her staunch conservative positions over the years were not relevant to her being a judge. Judge Kuhl, now in State Superior Court in Los Angeles, regretted and distanced herself from several of those positions she took as a lawyer, saying she was merely an advocate for her clients. As to the times during her state judgeship when she was pointedly reversed, she told the committee that she was grateful to have had the issue clarified and would surely rule that way in the future. [...] Judge Kuhl told the committee that she was wrong to have argued vigorously as a lawyer in the Reagan Justice Department that the administration reverse a longstanding policy and provide tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, despite its racial discrimination. [...] She said that she was a young lawyer at the time and did not realize that it was the obligation of the Justice Department to defend rulings like the one made by the Internal Revenue Service on the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University.
So let me get this straight-ish: a government employed lawyer did not realize that it was the job of government employed lawyers to defend the positions of the government.
Well, all-righty, then!
To be sure, that's somewhat facile. After all, if said government lawyer believes that the government's position is wrong, it's certainly her job to advocate that the position be changed. (And, to be quite honest, I suspect that she's right when she notes that the revenue service could use the authority it used against Bob Jones University to end tax-exempt status at women's colleges. I wonder how she'll feel when various conservative groups start going after them. After all, given the attacks on affirmative action, they have to be up there on the radar screen. But I digress.) That said ... surely any government lawyer, no matter how young and new, would realize the utter political disaster that would await once you put the government on the side of racial discrimination.
Leaving that aside, one also wonders about the discretion of a judge that brings her own religion into a hearing. Not only was it utterly irrelevant to the issue at hand, not only was it utterly inappropriate to discuss religious matters as such during a confirmation hearing, but pointing out that her religious beliefs could have any bearing on her positions is just plain stupid. It would indicate that she would consciously allow her religious positions to have some effect on her judicial opinions; why on earth would you want to make that point so noticeable?
One wonders why Bush isn't trying to appoint people whose judicial and legal qualifications are so apparent that even a hostile Senate would have to allow them through. After all, that's how Scalia managed to get through a Democrat-controlled Senate, for heaven's sake, even though everybody knew that his opinions were very conservative. By aiming for people with relatively little on the record, he's simply not helping his cause. (Of course, it may well be that such people are looking at the confirmation process and deciding that they absolutely do not need to deal with that political mess, in which case their core sensibility would be confirmed.)Posted by iain at April 02, 2003 11:57 AM