U.S. Will Re-Evaluate 3 Judicial Candidates : Courts: Nominees have been blocked since Wilson recommended them when he was a senator. Reconsideration follows complaints by an aide to the governor.
The U.S. Justice Department will reconsider three federal judgeship candidates whose nominations were blocked after they were recommended by Gov. Pete Wilson when he was a senator, a department official said Wednesday.
“These are good, well-regarded people,” said Murray Dickman, an assistant to U.S. Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh. “We will re-evaluate these three candidates.”
Dickman said a key Wilson aide, Ira Goldman, had misstated the reasons why the candidacies had not been approved. “Mr. Goldman seems to feel that we in the Administration have no right to look beyond the names they gave us,” he added.
Goldman had said the department regarded Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William A. Masterson as too old at 60, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dzintra I. Janavs as too liberal and San Diego trial lawyer James A. McIntyre as too obscure.
Goldman called the reasons “outrageous” and assailed Dickman for taking a “Napoleonic stance” on the issue. Goldman blamed Dickman for a months-long stalemate that began after Wilson--later backed by his successor, Sen. John Seymour--proposed Masterson and Janavs for federal district judgeships in Los Angeles, and McIntyre for a similar post in San Diego.
Dickman acknowledged that the department’s screening process looks for candidates under 60, but he said that exceptions are made when age is outweighed by other factors. Judicial philosophy is taken into account, but candidates are not asked their specific positions on such issues as abortion, he said.
Dickman denied that Janavs was viewed as too liberal. “That is the conclusion of Mr. Goldman--not ours,” he said. Nor, Dickman said, was McIntyre viewed as too obscure.
But Dickman declined to state the department’s specific reservations about the three Wilson-Seymour recommendations. “It’s not fair to the individuals,” he said. “When something like this happens, all it does is embarrass them.”
Dickman did not criticize Wilson but went on to assail Goldman, saying his remarks appeared to be motivated by the fact that Goldman had sought but been rejected last December for a position on the District of Columbia federal circuit court.. “I’m afraid he was told here that he did not have the legal qualifications,” said Dickman. “I’m sorry to say this, but it apparently explains his behavior.”
Goldman, reached in Sacramento Wednesday, said of Dickman’s remarks: “When you have no substantive argument, you take your shoe off and beat it on the table. The bottom line is that Gov. Wilson is angry about the Justice Department’s misfeasance, which has gone on now for more than seven months. This is the governor’s concern that’s being expressed here--not mine. I’m just the point man.”
Goldman, who had said Dickman had asserted himself “in the absence of adult supervision” by Thornburgh, said Wednesday: “The only conclusion we can draw is that there is some different drummer on Murray Dickman’s Walkman to which he is marching.”
The department’s refusal to endorse the candidates had also sparked a protest from the Los Angeles County Bar Assn., whose executive committee sent a letter to President Bush saying Masterson and Janavs are “highly regarded” and should be evaluated on their skills and not by “arbitrary or inappropriate criteria.”
Dickman noted that the department screens hundreds of recommendations for federal judgeships made by U.S. senators, before sending approved candidacies to the White House for formal nomination by the President.
“We’ve had very good success with (former) Sen. Wilson until these candidates . . . but that does not mean these three are not very good people,” he said.
Numerous other recommendations made by Wilson have been approved, Dickman observed. For example, Bush last week nominated another Wilson choice, Garland Ellis Burrell, an assistant U.S. attorney in Sacramento, to a federal district judgeship in that city.