In his Nov. 5 letter, James E. Kennedy, special adviser to the White House counsel, impugned the motives of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and the other Senate Republicans who voted against the nomination of Judge Ronnie White a month ago.

First, the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police did not support Judge White's nomination before the vote rejecting him. Judge White's nomination was opposed, however, by the National Sheriffs' Association, the Missouri Federation of Police Chiefs, and the Mercer County and Missouri prosecuting attorneys' offices.

In addition, the Missouri Sheriffs' Association -- and 77 of the 114 individual sheriffs in Missouri -- raised strong concerns about Judge White's nomination and urged the Senate to strongly consider Judge White's sole dissent urging a new trial for an admitted multiple cop killer in the case of Missouri v. Johnson.

This opposition was generated by Judge White's opinions on the Missouri Supreme Court, particularly in death penalty cases. Judge White has a pattern of voting to give guilty criminals a new trial if they merely can point to a technical legal error at their first trial.

Second, Judge White has dissented in favor of more lenient treatment for convicted murderers in more than one out of 10 capital cases. This is almost four times as often as any of the judges on that court whom I appointed when I was governor.

Third, Mr. Kennedy's implication that Judge White was defeated because of his race is untrue and offensive. Under Republican control, the Senate has confirmed most of President Clinton's judicial nominations of every race. Department of Justice statistics indicate that minority and women candidates have been confirmed at a faster pace this Congress than have white male nominees.

Unfortunately, the White House has decided to use Judge White as a political issue.

JOHN ASHCROFT

U.S. Senator (R-Mo.)

Washington