By Ruth Marcus
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has named a federal appeals court judge with an active background in Democratic politics to serve on the special court that oversees independent counsels.
Rehnquist last month selected Richard D. Cudahy, a senior judge on the federal appeals court in Chicago, to succeed John D. Butzner Jr., a senior judge on the federal appeals court in Richmond.
Butzner, 80, had asked not to be reappointed at the end of his two-year term. Butzner was appointed to the bench by President John F. Kennedy and elevated to the appeals court by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The other two members of the panel, Reagan appointee David B. Sentelle of the federal appeals court here, and Peter T. Fay of the federal appeals court in Miami, will remain in place. Fay was originally named to the bench by President Richard Nixon and was elevated by President Gerald Ford.
Cudahy, 72, who served as chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party in 1967-68 and was the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin attorney general in 1968, was named to the bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
"I've got to educate myself before I take over the job," he said yesterday. "I hope I can approach it intelligently. I feel honored the chief justice would have confidence in me to appoint me to the job . . . and I hope that we can go about it as prudently as possible so that the country may have confidence in whatever the process turns up."
The membership of the court that appoints and oversees independent counsels received little attention until the 1994 selection of Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.
Starr was named to replace Robert B. Fiske Jr., who had been appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno while the independent counsel law had lapsed. Shortly before the announcement, Sentelle lunched with North Carolina Republican Sens. Lauch Faircloth and Jesse Helms. The episode prompted criticism of Sentelle, who had been active in North Carolina Republican politics before becoming a judge.
Just last week, U.S. District Judge James Robertson dismissed the indictment of former Justice Department official Webster L. Hubbell in part on the grounds that the three-judge court had exceeded its authority in expanding Starr's mandate to include tax charges against Hubbell.
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