April 14, 2009

Surprise, Surprise NYT Thinks ABA Not Liberal Enough

Curt reported on a study showing the ABA has a liberal bias and why the CFJ opposes their role in the judicial nomination process.
The Committee for Justice opposes this pre-nomination role for the ABA, both because of the conflict of interest it creates and the ABA’s ideological bias. The ABA’s ratings of judicial nominees already play a substantial role in the Senate’s confirmation of nominees, but those ratings can hardly be considered objective if the ABA played a role in the selection of the nominees.
The New York Times, however, is not convinced by this study.  Shocker!  Identifying liberal bias in another might force the Times to look in the mirror, which they will never do.
As the A.B.A. resumes this role, a new study suggests that it may have a liberal bias. There is little support for this claim. Indeed, there are signs that the group has been cowed by conservative critics in recent years into approving less-than-qualified nominees. The A.B.A. needs to ensure that its evaluators make assessments based on the nominees’ merits, not on political pressure.
What proof does the Times put forth to refute this study?  As I have noted before, you will just have to trust them.  In support of their claim that the ABA has cowed to conservatives they offer one example: Leslie Southwick.  Jonathan Adler shows why the Times' reasoning is lacking.
The ABA gave Southwick a unanimous "well-qualified" rating when President Bush nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (for which Southwick was eventually confirmed, 59-38). Given Southwick's extensive experience -- a stint at DoJ and over a decade on a state appellate court -- the high rating was understandable. Why does the NYT think Southwick was one of Bush's "most deeply flawed nominees"? Because of two cases in which he joined objectionable majority opinions -- two out of the over 7,000 in which Southwick participated as a judge. Even assuming Southwick was wrong in those two cases -- and the NYT makes no effort to describe the legal issues and arguments in the two cases -- two erroneous decisions in over a decade hardly makes a judge "less-than qualified" (something my conservative friends may want to keep in mind when it comes to Obama nominees with extensive lower or state court experience).
The Times closes with a piece of rich hypocrisy.  
The group’s screeners should evaluate the Obama nominees based on their qualifications, judicial temperament and views of the law — without imposing any ideological litmus tests.
If only the Times would follow their own advice and report on judicial nominees "without imposing any ideological litmus test."  I won't be holding my breath for that to happen.  On all things judges, the Times coverage reeks of partisan hackery that isn't likely to end soon.

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