Liberal Groups Urge Rejection of Bush Court Choice

Times Staff Writer

A coalition of liberal groups representing women, minorities and workers urged California's two U.S. senators Friday to do everything in their power, including a filibuster on the Senate floor, to stop the nomination of conservative Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl to the federal appeals court in San Francisco.

The opposition to Kuhl's nomination could be a warmup for a larger fight over the ideology of judicial candidates if a seat opens on the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

Kuhl, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, was renominated to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush this month after the Republicans won control of the Senate in November. Her first nomination effort ended last year without a hearing before the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.

Critics said at a Los Angeles news conference Friday that Kuhl's conservative ideology alone makes her unfit for the federal appellate bench. The American Bar Assn. has rated Kuhl "well-qualified" for the job.

"She poses an imminent threat to women if she is confirmed," said Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority. "She has gone on the record repeatedly, completely opposed to abortion rights in this country."

As a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, Kuhl wrote a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade and outlaw abortion. She also lobbied for tax-exempt status for Bob Jones University despite its policy against mixed-race dating on campus.

Representatives of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund, United Farm Workers and disability rights and taxpayer groups joined women's rights advocates Friday in opposing Kuhl and other Bush nominees they believe would bring their "right-wing ideology" to the federal bench.

Lawyer Mark Kleinman, who represents the national consumer group Taxpayers Against Fraud, said he represented a whistle-blower who was denied attorney fees by Kuhl in a Los Angeles courtroom. Kuhl's decision was reversed on appeal.

"I'm here to tell you that this nomination is worse than a mistake. It is dangerous," he said. "To the present day, she has demonstrated not just a disregard ... but an active hostility toward any statute that might protect whistle-blowers or the public from companies that do horrible things."

One speaker after another urged Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to oppose Kuhl's nomination in any way, from blocking her committee hearing to filibustering to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from casting a confirmation vote.

Last year, Boxer opposed the nominee and did not return "a blue slip," a process named for the blue consent form on which home-state senators voice their opinions on whether the nominee should receive a committee hearing.

Boxer said in a statement released Friday that she opposes Kuhl's nomination because she is "out of the mainstream and not representative of the values shared by most Californians on such matters as women's rights, civil rights, defense of tobacco companies, privacy rights, whistle-blower protection and consumer rights."

A spokesman for Feinstein said that the senator has taken no position on Kuhl's nomination and that she believes the judge should have a hearing before the Senate.

Kuhl declined to comment Friday through a spokesperson, but the Bush administration maintained its support for her. "The president is strongly committed to this nominee," a White House official said Friday.

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