Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. said yesterday he will not reopen nominations for four newly created federal judgeships in the state despite pressure from the Justice Department and civil and social rights groups.
The groups are urging Byrd to reconsider the nominations he sent to the White House last winter because all of his 10 nominees are white males. President Carter has said he wants more women and minorities named to the courts and groups say they see the Byrd nominees as test of Carter's pledge.
Byrd nominated the 10 lawyers after they have were recommended to him by two judicial selection panels that were established at the urging of President Carter.
Byrd said in a statement yesterday that he is satisfied with the qualifications of those he named. "I so stated to the president that in the confirmation process I would support any two of the five individuals recommended by each of the commissions. I stand by the recommendations of the commissions."
Byrd's statement came after disclosure that the Justice Department is trying to persuade Byrd, and Independent, to add names of blacks and women to those he has already selected.
Justice Department officials had met with civil rights and social activist groups last week who objected to the Byrd nominations. According to those at the meeting, Justice Department officials said they would urge Byrd to consider other candidates. A Justice spokesman said that members of the groups were told to submit names of minorities and women directly to the department.
In his statement Byrd defended the choices of his two commissions. "Each commission interviewed a large number of prospective nominees and submitted a list of the five persons it believed to be best qualified," he said. "I, in turn, satisfied myself as to their qualifications."
A Justice Department official said yesterday that the department has not decided whether Byrd's candidates are qualified for the four judgeships, among 117 district judgeships created by a new legislation. The spokesman also declined to comment on Byrd's statement.
Among those nominated by Byrd for the judgeships, one of which is expected to be in Alexandria federal court are James C. Cacheris, a Fairtax County Circuit judge, and Wiley R. Wright, an Alexandria Circuit Court judge. Wright is considered by many to have an edge over Cacheris because he is a Democrat.
Also nominated for the two eastern Virginia judgeships are state court judges J.H.M. Willis Jr. of Fredericksburg and Nelson T. Overton of Hampton and former state court judge Richard L. Williams of Richmond.