San Diegan Reviewed for U.S. Judgeship

Times Staff Writers

A UC Berkeley law professor who is a prominent anti-abortion activist and a San Diego attorney apparently are being considered by President Reagan for appointment to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Government sources in Washington said Friday that John T. Noonan Jr. and San Diego attorney David R. Thompson were being reviewed by the FBI and the American Bar Assn. Such reviews occur before formal judicial nominations are made by the President.

In addition, the sources said, three others--Dickran N. Tevrizian, 45, a former Los Angeles Superior Court judge; J. Spencer Letts, 50, a Los Angeles attorney, and John S. Rhoades, 60, a lawyer in San Diego--also are under review for federal judgeships.

Tevrizian and Letts are expected to be nominated to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Rhoades would be named to the U.S. District Court’s Southern District in San Diego.


Except for Noonan, the sources said, the nominations are expected to attract little attention when the men come up for confirmation before the U.S. Senate.

Noonan, 58, a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law, may draw opposition from feminist and other pro-choice groups because of his well-known opposition to the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion. In that decision, the court ruled that abortion is a constitutionally protected right.

He has been a director of Americans United for Life and is editor-in-chief of the Human Rights Journal.

In pushing for a reversal of the Supreme Court ruling, he has argued for legislation that would declare that life begins at conception. He has said that many judges have read their views into the Constitution in upholding the right to abortion. He wrote recently:


“If the justices are unrestricted in reading their private views into the Constitution, then . . . the work of constitutional interpretation becomes a ‘picnic to which farmers bring the words and the judges the meaning.’ ”

Feminist and other pro-choice groups have complained that the Reagan Administration is using opposition to abortion as a litmus test for appointment to a federal judgeship. Although spokeswomen for such groups could not be reached for comment late Friday, congressional sources said that feminists and liberals, upset over the President’s preference for nominees who oppose abortion, may fight the nomination.

Noonan, however, expects no controversy on Capitol Hill. “I just don’t see it,” he said in a telephone interview.

Noonan is considered to be a centrist on most legal issues and is well known for his work on legal ethics. He has written six books, several of them on legal responsibilities.


Thompson, 54, is the brother of U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. in San Diego.

Ronald Ostrow reported from Washington and George Ramos from Los Angeles.