"A "very, very irate and rude" Chief Justice Warrent E. burgger, "yelled at me that I was irresponsible" in connection with legislation to overhaul the administration of the bankruptcy laws, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) charged yesterday.
In a telephone call on Sept. 28, shortly after the House approved a compromise bill of which Burger disapproved, the chief justice also said that "I'm going to go to the president and get to veto this" and that he would call a news conference, the freshman senator said.
urger yelled at ma - just screamed at me," he added.
SUpreme Court press officer Barrett McGura told reporters that Burger would not comment on the remarks of the senator, who is chairman of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee responsible for bankruptcy legislation.
McGura said only that Burger "did indeed express his very great concern about the House bill becoming law," while speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Judicial Conference of the United States.
The conference, the policy-making body of the federal judiciary, has strongly opposed the legislation as approved by the House, although the Senate has substantially modified it since the exchange between De Concini and Burger.
McGura said that there has been a cordial relationship between the senator and the Chief Justice.
In a telephone interview, DeConcini emphasized that he had not volunterred his recollection about the conversation, on which he took no notes. Instead, he said, he had described the encounter to Christine Collins, a Gannett News Service reporter who had called him about it.
DeConcini also said that he believed that Burger has learned about the House compromise just before calling him, and happened to make him the target to his wrath simply because he was the first legislator to be reached by the chief justice.
Spokesman for several other legislators involved with the legislation told a reporter yesterday that Burger on all occasions has been polite in conversations with them.
"I think he just lost his temper, and I happened to be on the other end of the phone" DeConcini said. "I have no bone to pick and no vendetta toward the chief justice." He added that "I don't suggest he's done anything legally wrong," although he did not believe a judge should "lobby," as he says Burger did.
Burger "not only lobbied, but pressured and attempted to be intimidating" when he telephoned about the compromise, which was developed by House and Senate members, including himself, DeConcini said.
Unlike the Senate version of the bill approved by the Judicial Conference, the "very significantly different" House bill would have provided for 200 new bankruptcy referees with the status of federal judges and with pensions more generous than those for members of Congress and FBI and CIA agents, McGurn said.
He said the conference saw no need for 200 new judges, objected to the bill's provision for their being represented in the conference, and warned that the measure could greatly increase the costs of bankruptcy administration.