Attorney General Edwin Meese III came in for some rough going recently during confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Had Meese been up for a job, he might not have been confirmed.
Committee Democrats, led by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio, railed at Meese's recent statements, including one in which he said "you don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime."
The nominees who were there, Charles Fried and Stephen Markman, had a much easier time. In fact, there was no opposition to Fried's nomination to be solicitor general and to Markman's taking over the Office of Legal Policy at Justice.
The Senate confirmed Markman last Friday and Fried on Tuesday.
During the hearings, Fried, a law professor who is on leave of absence from Harvard University, indicated that would be on the job for the next three years, which means that he will have to resign from his tenured position at the college. His leave expires a year from January. Fried will have to reapply for his job, although it is likely he will get it back if he wants it.
Markman, a former member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff, now heads the office charged with screening and picking new federal judges. That job is being handled by Grover Rees III, a University of Texas law professor on leave to be an assistant to Meese.
Rees apparently came to Washington on an understanding and promise from top Justice officials that judgeships would be his responsibility.
It seems Markman and Rees will have to figure out what their working relationship is going to be.
MORE AND MORE JUDGES . . . The administration meanwhile is moving toward its goal of naming a majority of the nation's 743 federal judges. President Reagan has already picked 218 appeals court and district judges, or about 27 percent of the seats, and has another 80 vacancies waiting to be filled. Additional retirements are certain to give him a solid chance to reach his goal.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nominations of five more judges yesterday, including former deputy attorney general Laurence H. Silberman, who has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia. All were approved by voice vote with no opposition.
The Judiciary Committee has yet to turn down a Reagan judicial nominee. It probably would have rejected Sherman Unger, general counsel of the Commerce Department, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. But Unger, the only Reagan nominee rated unqualified by the American Bar Association, died in 1983 before the committee voted.
So far, the administration has not gone forward with a nominee if the ABA has problems with the candidate. Indiana University law professor William Harvey, a former chairman of the Legal Services Corp., under Reagan, has withdrawn temporarily from consideration for a seat on the federal appeals court in Chicago after running into some early problems with the ABA screening committee.
There are also reports that the ABA committee, in a preliminary poll, voted against the nomination of Lino Graglia, a University of Texas law school professor who is under consideration for a seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ABA has not reached a final decision on Graglia, sources say, although one is expected within the next two weeks.