EIGHT LOCAL lawyers have been nominated for judgeships on District of Columbia courts, seven for the Superior Court and one for the D.C. Court of Appeals. The law requires that local judges be nominated by the president, but he must choose from a list submitted by a judicial selection committee with special responsibility for D.C. courts. All the nominations must be confirmed by the Senate.
Because time is short and Congress will only be in town for another four weeks, a single hearing for all eight nominees was set for today. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which has a subcommittee on the District of Columbia, has jurisdiction, not the Senate Judiciary Committee, which handles the nominations of federal judges. It is rumored that Democrats do not intend to move quickly on the federal nominees, so that the positions will remain open until after the election -- a tactic that may not be laudable but is just about routine for any political party this late in a presidential election year.
The D.C. judges are another matter, however. They have not been chosen through the usual political channels, and they will sit in courts handling only local matters. Senate consideration of these nominations should proceed without delay and without regard to national political considerations. Unfortunately, this may not happen in all eight cases.
Last Friday, the committee hearing schedule was revised. The nomination of Andrew Frey, deputy solicitor general of the United States, to be a judge of the Court of Appeals, will not be considered until an unspecified later date. The sudden shift is due to a barrage of phone calls and five letters from groups that oppose gun control legislation and abortion. These are national, not local, organizations, and they are out to get Mr. Frey because he belongs to two organizations, one supporting handgun control and another advocating freedom of choice on abortion. If they succeed in killing his nomination because of these personal beliefs -- views that a judge at this level cannot impose on litigants -- they will be encouraged to try to stop all federal judicial nominees who don't conform ideologically. It is infuriating that these national lobbies can exert such pressure on a local issue, and the Senate should not allow them to get away with it.