Gordon A. Martin Jr. is suing President Reagan for kicking him off a government board before he could even attend a meeting.
Martin, a Boston attorney and a Democrat, was appointed to a one-year term on the National Institute of Justice Advisory Board by President Carter last Oct. 31. The Reagan administration asked the panel to delay meeting, and eventually asked its members to resign. Those who refused received mailgrams from Deputy Attorney General Edward C. Schmults informing them that their appointments were "terminated." e
Martin filed suit in Boston last week, claiming the president forced him off the committee "purely for political reasons."
At least five other committee members also refused to resign, Martin said. One of them, Lorenzo Patino, a municipal court judge from Sacramento, plans to file a similar suit in the president's home state, according to Patino's attorney.
A justice Department spokesman contended that the president "has the right to seek advice from whomever he wants," adding that "these lame-duck, last-minute appointments to advisory committees don't give him a chance to do that."
The advisory board was created in 1979 to set priorities and policy for the National Institute of Justice, a Justice Department research center for court administration and law enforcement. The board also is supposed to establish peer review groups for grant applications and recommend candidates for director of the institute.
Martin is fighting his removal because, he said, the advisory board is intended to be a nonpartisan, independent division of the department. "I think a mailgram from Deputy Attorney General Schmults is simply not valid. I was appointed by President Carter and I'm very concerned I'm not fulfilling my responsibility under a state of the United States," he said.
Justice Department officials said that the question of the board's autonomy is legal one that must be decided in court.
The Reagan administration also has sought the resignations of the Bureau of Justice Statistics Advisory Board and the National Advisory Commission on Juvenile Justice.
Martin, 47, worked as a trial attorney in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division during the 1960s. He was a delegate to the 1976 Democratic convention and worked on Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's 1980 presidential campaign.
In his suit, Martin cited as precedents the Supreme Court's blocking of President Roosevelt's effort to dismiss a member of the Federal Trade Commission, and a recent ruling by a U.S. District Court judge that Reagan had exceeded his authority in dismissing William A. Borders Jr. from the District of Columbia Judicial Nominating Commission.
The U.S. attorney in Boston, Donald Anderson, said that although he believes Martin is "dead serious" about his case, "there may have been some feeling that it was Don Quixote again attacking the windmill."