The nominations of two D.C. Superior Court judges being pushed by Mayor Marion Barry are not expected to be confirmed as Congress is about to adjourn with no word from President-Elect Ronald Reagan's advisers which would have given the needed go-ahead for the judges' confirmation.
The incoming Reagan administration effectively has killed the nomination of two D.C. Superior Court judges by not specifically telling key Senate Republican leaders that the president-elect favored their confirmation.
The two nominees, Ricardo M. Urbina, a Howard University law professor who would be the first Hispanic named to the city's trial court, and Dorothy Sellers, a private Washington lawyer, had been awaiting confirmation during the lame-duck session of Congress. But the Republican leaders, who also have blocked confirmation of several federal judges, declined to approve the local judicial nominees without a clear signal from the Reagan camp that it wanted them confirmed.
The killing of the nominations is a defeat for Barry and his top legal aides, who lobbied heavily to get Urbina and Sellers confirmed. They viewed the two nominations as a test case of whether the Reagan administration would defer to the city on what local leaders see as purely District of Columbia issues.
But the Senate GOP leaders who have also blocked a number of federal judgeships have put a hold on the local judicial nominees in the absence of any affirmative word from the Reagan transition advisors.Since no word has been forthcoming, no action has been taken.
Sources close to Urbina and Sellers said they have been told by a Carter White House aide that they would not be confirmed. "Unfortunately, they got whipsawed," said another Carter source who helped choose the two judges.
Barry declined to comment on the defeat of the nominations until Congress officially adjourns. City spokesman Alan Grip said Barry had been pushing for the nominations because they enjoyed widespread support in the community.
Herbert O. Reid, the mayor's top legal counsel, said last month that "approving the nominations would be a gesture of support for home rule, and the merit selection of judges" by the city's Judicial Nomination Commission. City officials and court personnel have visited various congressional offices and telephoned or written letters in a lobbying campaign on behalf of the two nominees.
Apparently most Republican Senate leaders were not opposed to the specific nominees, according to congressional sources, but they would not take action without some signal from the Reagan advisers.
A source close to the Reagan transition team on legal and justice affairs said such a signal is not likely.
"Nobody has singled out the District of Columbia for hostility or non-support," the source said, but added that neither Urbina nor Sellers had a strong advocate in the Senate.
The two would-be judges themselves had made personal visits to key Senate leaders trying to distinguish their appointments from the more political federal judgeships and stressing that their confirmations should be viewed as purely local appointments.
According to the source close to the Reagan transition advisers, the fact that the nominations were Carter appointments certainly played a role.
The source also said that the recent controversy involving the D.C. Judicial Nomination Commission in its reappointment of D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Theodore R. Newman Jr. also affected the Urbina-Sellers nominations. The controversy surrounding the nomination commission "underpins the natural instinct not to approve the two judges" who originally were nominated by the same panel, the source said.
Frederick B. Abramson, chairman of the nomination commission, declined comment on the criticism of the group.
Urbina and Sellers also declined comment on the fate of their nominations.