So far the Senate Judiciary Committee has rejected only one Reagan nominee for the federal bench -- Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama -- and the full Senate none. That may change. The committee, evenly divided, has reported without recommendation the nomination of Daniel Manion to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Senate is considering the nomination now. We think the Senate should vote no.
* Our reason does not have to do with Mr. Manion's character. Even the Chicago Council of Lawyers, which opposes his nomination, said that he has "a high reputation for integrity, conscientiousness and fairness." Many of the lawyers the council contacted also "thought that despite his reputation for political conservatism, Mr. Manion would struggle to be fair in ruling on cases which present issues on which he has strong political views."
* Our reason does not have to do with Mr. Manion's views, either -- even those with which we disagree. Mr. Manion is of the right. He holds many of the views of his father, Clarence Manion, former dean of Notre Dame Law School and a founding member of the John Birch Society. The nominee has voiced doubts about both the scope of the Supreme Court's authority and the wisdom of its decisions on issues from school prayer to the right to bail. Critics have questioned whether as judge he would follow statutes and Supreme Court precedents that conflicted with his views. To vote yes on the nomination, senators must satisfy themselves that he would. But surely no man should be disqualified by his father's opinions or even for views on Supreme Court opinions that are shared by millions of citizens and even many members of Congress.
*Mr. Manion's problem is an utter lack of the professional credentials to be a federal appeals court judge. He has not a smidgeon. He was admitted to the bar only 13 years ago. His practice in South Bend has been generally one of serving individuals and small businesses in homely affairs. He has tried about 100 cases in state and federal courts but has never even argued in the Seventh Circuit. He can cite no published work or academic experience. That is a paper-thin re'sume' for someone aspiring to be a federal judge at any level, much less the second-highest level in the land.
On these grounds alone, he does not demonstrate the qualifications for this prestigious post. Mr. Manion's defenders in the administration that nominated him say that only ideology is at issue here. That is true, but not in the way they mean it. It is the nomination that was ideological. If politics should not be a factor in confirmation, neither should it be the guiding factor in nomination. That is how it appears here. The Senate's duty is clear.