President Carter yesterday nominated five persons, including two blacks and two womens, to fill vacant or soon-to-be-vacant seats in D.C. Superior Court.
The five at the first major local nominations made by the President and his staff in one of the White House's few remaining direct influences on purely local District of Columbia matters. The five persons were selected from names forwarded to the White House by the local judicial nominating commission, and must be approved by the Senate.
Selected to join the 44-member local bench, which handles most of the city's major criminal cases and a wide range of civil cases, are:
Gladys Kessler, 39, of the law firm of Roisman, Kessler and Cashdan, which handles numerous public interest cases. She was a founder of the Women's Legal Defense Funds here and works with the American Civil Liberties Union in some of its cases.
Robert M. Scott, 55, of the law firm of Sachs, Greenebaum and Taylor, A former assistant U.S. attorney here, Scott has handled a wide range of civil cases before various agencies that include the Federal Power Commission.
Robert A. Shuker, 35, head of the Superior Court division of the U.S. Attorney's Office. Shuker also headed the prosecution team in the 1973 Hanafi Muslim murder case.
Annice M. Wagner, 39, who has been people's counsel for the District of Columbia for the past two years. In that job, she represents consumer interests in public utility cases.
Paul R. Webber III, 43, of the law firm of Dolphin, Branton, Staffer and Webber. He is a former trial attorney with the antitrust division of the Justice Department and was one of the top attorneys with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program for two years here in the late 1960s.
Various legal sources said yesterday that they expect little serious opposition to the nominees, although there was criticism that some lack courtroom experience.
Three of the persons named yesterday - Shuker, Scott and Wagner - had been nominated in January by President Ford before he left office, but the names had beend returned to the White House when the then lameduck Congress declined to act on them.
President Carter omitted the name ofanother person - private attorney Edwin A. Brown - who had been nominated to a judgeship by Ford. There was no immediate explanation as to why he was withdrawn as a nominee by the Carter White House.
Persons familiar with the judicial nominating process here said, however, that Brown would likely be included in future nominations.
The nominations come at a time when some lawyers in the city have begun to complain of backlogs caused by a shortage in the number of judges available to hear cases in Superior Court.
The five vacancies being filled by yesterday's nomination include four that have existed for several months and a fifth that opens up this month with the retirement of Judge Milton D. Korman.
A sixth Superior Court judge, James Washington, continues to be seriously ill as a result of a fall in his home. Considerable controversy surrounds the right of a seventh judge. Charles W. Halleck, to retain his seat.
The Halleck renomination remains before the White House, where officials say they are considering whether to submit it to the Senate again. The Halleck nomination was in the Senate for several months last year, but no action was taken on it.
White House officials said yesterday that they have set no specific timetable to deal with the Halleck situation, but do not plan to delay that decision for long.
Kessler, a native of New York City, has worked for the National Labor Relations Board and as an executive assistant for Sen. Harrison Williams (D-N.J.) and Rep. Jonathan Bingham (R-N.Y.). She also has handled labor relations cases for the New York City Board of Education. In the District, she has been active in conservation and civil rights cases, various bar groups, and other citizen-oriented groups.
Scott, who was born in Tulsa, Okla., was a federal prosecutor here from 1948 to 1953. Since he has been in private practice, he has litigated before numerous agencies, including the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals and the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
A native of Needham, Mass., Shuker was once an attorney with the Chicago Lawyers Project and has been the top federal prosecutor in Superior Court here since 1973. Highly respected by defense attorneys and his coworkers alike, he was the first recipient of the U.S. Attorney's Office's Harold Sullivan Award as the outstanding prosecutor in the 150-member office here. Shuker also has received special awards from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Wagner was associated with the D.C. firm of Houston and Gardner and then was general counsel for the old National Capital Housing Authority before becoming people's counsel. Her appointment to the D.C. consumer advocat post prompted some criticism because of her lack of experience in such cases, but she was ultimately approved by an 11-to-1 vote of the City Council.
Webber is a native of Gadsden, S.C., and a graduate of South Carolina State College. He graduated first in his class from the law school school there, and served as associate counsel to an insurance firm in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. He is a visiting professor of law at George Washington University, and has lectured at Howard University.