The Senate Judiciary Committee voted without dissent Thursday to approve the Reagan Administration’s controversial nomination of Alex Kozinski to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
If confirmed by the full Senate, Kozinski, 35, will become the nation’s youngest federal appellate court judge. No date has been set for the Senate vote.
Now chief judge of the U.S. Claims Court, Kozinski had been criticized by leaders of federal employee groups as lacking experience and as failing to protect the rights of government “whistle-blowers” during his tenure as special counsel for the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Also in recent weeks, Democrats on the committee have expressed their intention to subject the Administration’s judicial nominees to closer scrutiny. President Reagan is expected to make up to 100 judgeship nominations this year--and could fill more than half of the 760 positions on the federal judiciary by the end of his second term.
But while two Democrats expressed reservations about the Kozinski nomination Thursday, both said they could not find sufficient grounds to oppose it.
Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), who in July obtained a delay of the committee vote to study the accusations against Kozinski, told the panel Thursday, “Frankly, I feel some unease with the nomination, but I do not have a basis to vote against it.”
Similarly, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) said he felt “some uneasiness” after complaints by some former subordinates of Kozinski who were “anything but complimentary” about the way he treated them.
“I hope that (Kozinski) will hear these words and that he will moderate his temperament and manners that he has exhibited in the past,” DeConcini said.
Thomas M. Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group that aids government employees who report mismanagement, expressed disappointment with the committee action.
“We still intend to carry our challenge to the floor of the Senate,” he said.
Kozinski, who has served on the claims court since 1982, is regarded as the kind of committed judicial conservative the Administration is seeking to place on the federal bench. Answering a written questionnaire issued by the committee to all nominees, he stated his firm opposition to “judicial activism,” the tendency by some judges to issue broad policy mandates rather than narrow interpretations of the law.
“I strongly disagree with this trend and would take a stand against it in any judicial position to which I would be appointed,” he said.
Kozinski was born in Bucharest, Romania, and came with his parents to the United States, settling in Los Angeles. A graduate of UCLA Law School, he served as law clerk to Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of the 9th Circuit and to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger.