The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia this week said that the two commissions charged with selecting nominees for four federal district judgeships in the state discriminated against blacks and women.
In a letter to President Carter, the ACLU said methods used by the commissions "simply continued the tradition of selecting white male nominees with similar backgrounds to the federal district court bench in Virginia." The ACLU urged Carter to begin the selection process all over.
Last week Carter signed a bill creating 117 federal district judgeships and 35 U.S. court of appeals judgeships, including two district judges for each of Virginia's two judicial districts. Nominations from the commissions are awaiting Carter's consideration and, according to sources, some new judges may be announced next month.
Nominees were chosen by judicial selection commissions named by Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (Ind.).
Although one black and one woman were members of the nine-member commission serving eastern Virginia, the ACLU said that the selections were secret and did not actively seek community input of minority members.
Thomas N. Downing, the eastern district selection commission chairman, said this week that "we tried desperately as individuals and as a committee to obtain qualified minorities."
Names of some blacks were submitted but were deemed unqualified by the commission, Downing said.
"We searched for women but we could not come up with one," he said.