Another of President Reagan's judicial nominees came under fire on Capitol Hill yesterday when the senior senator from his state accused him of working with the White House to bypass regular judicial selection procedures.
The latest dispute came as Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee carried out their threat to block consideration of all federal judgeships until Chairman Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) gives them more time to investigate the candidates. The Democrats invoked a parliamentary rule that forced Thurmond to adjourn the hearing before three of the five nominees -- including the most controversial, Alabama prosecutor Jefferson B. Sessions -- could be questioned.
The panel did hear from Hawaii lawyer Albert Moon, nominated for a federal district judgeship, but not before Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) went to the witness table to oppose him. It was the first time Inouye has opposed a judicial nominee.
Inouye said that in 1977, Moon approached him and asked him to form a bipartisan nominating commission to select federal judges. The panel, which has operated since the Carter administration, has five members appointed by Hawaii's two Democratic senators and four by the state bar association.
But Inouye complained that Reagan ignored the six candidates put forth by the nominating commission by selecting Moon, and that Moon helped to bypass the commission he had once championed.
Ranking Democrat Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.) disclosed that Moon had written to former presidential adviser and interior secretary William P. Clark, an old acquaintance of Moon, after Hawaii Republicans approached him about the nomination.
Under a longstanding tradition, the president generally accepts district court nominations in each state from the senators of his party. President Jimmy Carter was a strong proponent of nominating commissions and even accepted candidates from Republicans who created such panels.
But Reagan often ruffles congressional feathers by ignoring these nominating commissions, even those formed by Republican senators. In states with two Democratic senators, the White House seeks candidates from GOP officials and party members.
Moon said "political realities" dictate that members of a president's party will have more influence on judicial selections than a commission named by two opposition senators. "In other words, state party hacks are better qualified to determine who should be recommended than U.S. senators?" Biden asked.
Moon initially said he did little to form Hawaii's nominating commission, but modified his account after Inouye produced letters in which Moon proposed the commission's charter. "I'm not sure you're leveling with us," Biden said.