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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Conservatives Demand Release of Judicial Memos

Welcome friends from Confirm Them!

I've been a little busy putting out the brush fires of confusion launched by the unprincipled hate Bush crowd in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to post anything on the hearings to confirm John Roberts as Chief Justice on the United States Supreme Court.

I didn't see much need frankly. Roberts sailed through his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and even Democrats have grudgingly admitted that he's eminently qualified.

There is a word I don't use very often, and when I do, I mean it. Justice Roberts is brilliant! I don't know how conservative he is, but he appears to me to be the most qualified, mainstream judicial selection I have seen in many, MANY years.

But here's an interesting side story. Democrats who have spent the last few years demanding every single jot and tittle ever recorded on paper by any Bush nominee for whatever office are now seeing the tables turned.

Will this get anywhere? Probably not. But it's past time we brought up the subject.

From The Hill:

Conservative strategists are drafting a letter to Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanding the release of hundreds of internal memos detailing contacts between the lawmakers and liberal interest groups opposing John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court.

By planning to press Democrats on the sensitive subject, conservatives seem to be pulling a page from the Democrat's own political playbook. In the weeks leading up to the confirmation hearings, Senate Democrats have repeatedly called on the White House to give them memos Roberts penned while he was deputy solicitor general in President George H.W. Bush's administration.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, raised the issue again yesterday by releasing a letter dated Sept. 9 from William Moschella, the assistant attorney general. In the letter, Moschella declined to disclose legal memos from Roberts' tenure in the Office of the Solicitor General.

"It is regrettable that the Bush administration persists in keeping this information from the Senate," Leahy said. "These documents, from the period of Judge Roberts' most substantive work experience in the executive branch, would help illuminate his views and earlier decisions on a wide range of key issues that are of vital importance to the American people and to the Senate."

In their letter, conservatives quote Leahy's argument that the Senate should have access to the withheld documents. In the letter, they assert that the public is equally entitled to know what is motivating and directing Senate Democratic scrutiny of Roberts, according to a verbal summary given to The Hill.

"Given your demand that the Justice Department hand over John Roberts' work documents during his time as deputy solicitor general, you should have no reservations about approving the release of the full complement of documents that make up all of the Memogate papers," conservatives wrote in a draft of the letter, which will be circulated for signatures starting today. About 30 conservative leaders or more are expected to sign it.

A spokeswoman for the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee declined to comment without first seeing a copy of the letter.

Specifically, conservatives want access to what they estimate may be as many as 4,000 Democratic memos that are in Senate Sergeant at Arms William Pickle's possession. Last year, Pickle seized Senate Judiciary Committee computers during an investigation. Democrats on the committee called for the probe after internal memos written by aides to Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) were made available to the press without Kennedy's or Durbin's consent.

The publicized memos detailed contacts between leading liberal members on the committee and groups that lobbied them on President Bush's judicial nominees.

In their letter to Democrats, conservatives plan to argue that the memos are not protected by attorney-client privilege, giving them a stronger claim to the documents, they assert, than the Democrats have to the solicitor general's documents. Roberts' defenders have argued that a solicitor general's relationship to a president is akin to an attorney-client relationship and deserves special privilege.

Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative public-interest-litigation firm, said that he was familiar with the letter and plans to circulate it.

"I fully support it," he said. "I've always thought that the Congress and the Senate Judiciary Committee in particular gets away with a hypocritical standard. They demand that the executive branch produce everything, and yet on the other hand they refuse to make anything public."

Kay Daly, president of Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, a conservative group defending Roberts, said she was aware of the letter.

"There are some 4,000 memos locked away in the sergeant at arms' office that the public has a right to know about," she said.

Daly said that the since the taxpayers' fund the salaries of lawmakers and their aides they have a right to know about their work.

Conservatives said their case is bolstered by a memo sent by the Senate archivist to all Judiciary Committee staff members instructing them to preserve all documents and e-mails related to Roberts' confirmation proceedings, including correspondence with outside groups. Conservatives cite the archivist's message to support their claim that the internal memos held by the sergeant at arms should be made part of the public domain.

Jeff Lord, who served as associate political director in the Reagan administration from 1985 to 1988 and is working with Progress for America, a pro-Roberts advocacy group, has called for the Democratic memos to be made public during recent trips to Washington state and North Dakota. He traveled to those states to promote a new book he has written about the contentious 2002 Senate confirmation battle over Judge Brooks Smith's appointment to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lord called the memos "some of the most revealing things I've ever seen while in government," adding that the evidence of coordination between Democratic senators and third-party groups in the memos made public was "eye-opening."

One of the publicized memos, by a former aide to Kennedy and dated April 2002, reported that Elaine Jones of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund had asked Democrats to postpone the nomination of Judge Julia Gibbons to the 6th Circuit court until a key case on affirmative action had been decided. Conservatives consider it one of the most damning of the publicized batch.

The memo was downloaded from the Judiciary Committee server and made public in 2003.

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