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Wednesday, July 26, 2006 

ABA Grudge

Confirm Them alerted me to this Opinion Journal piece about the American Bar Association and their rating of judicial nominee Michael Wallace. Wallace has been nominated for a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ABA had previously been given the names of judicial nominees early. They would then rate them well qualified, qualified, or not qualified. President Bush changed the process a bit. The ABA still rates the nominees, but they don't get the names early. So what's the big deal now...
Enter Michael Wallace. Anyone who still clings to the fiction that the ABA can be counted on to provide professional evaluations of judicial nominees without regard to politics should take a look at the current squabble over Mr. Wallace, whom Mr. Bush has nominated for the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In May the ABA panel rated Mr. Wallace as "unanimously not qualified" for the federal bench.
That's a pretty harsh rating for a nominee. Surely, Wallace must have a poor resume and not enough experience to be a judge, right? Well, not exactly...
He graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1973. In 1976, he received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia College of Law, where he served on the Virginia Law Review and was named to the Order of the Coif.

He served as a law clerk for the Honorable Harry G. Walker of the Supreme Court of Mississippi and the Honorable William H. Rehnquist, then-Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Add to that years in private practice, a position as counsel for Trent Lott, serving as a board member of the Legal Services Corporation, a non-profit established by Congress to provide legal services to the poor, and years of Constitutional law practice. Am I missing something here? What is wrong with Wallace? I'd love to have a career like his. Here's the problem according the Opinion Journal...
Mr. Wallace's efforts to reform the LSC had many critics, among them an attorney by the name of Michael Greco. Another opponent was the then-president of the New Hampshire bar, Stephen Tober, who accused him of having a "political agenda" at one particularly contentious hearing. Mr. Greco is now president of the ABA, and Mr. Tober is chairman of the ABA committee that nixed Mr. Wallace. Mr. Wallace's reforms were adopted, and now it's apparently payback time.
This is pretty low. Who are these men trying to fool? Look at the career that Wallace has had and tell me with a straight face that he is not qualified to serve on the Fifth Circuit. Unless there is some huge ethical matter that has not come to light (and that's doubtful, since the ABA wouldn't be sitting on something that legitimate), then this is just a political hit.

The situation is not over though...
In any case, the ABA selection panel's deliberations are secret and it hasn't said why it considers Mr. Wallace unfit for the federal bench. In an exchange of letters last month with Mr. Tober, Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he would call the ABA to testify on its "Not Qualified" rating. He requested materials supporting the rating "as soon as possible."

Mr. Tober replied that "we will do our best" to submit the materials 48 hours in advance of the hearing--a schedule that would make it difficult and perhaps impossible for Republicans on Judiciary to evaluate the ABA's charges and prepare for the questioning. Senator Specter threatened a subpoena and the ABA supplied an advance copy of its testimony but not the supporting documents. The immediate effect of the ABA's delaying tactics has been to push Mr. Wallace's hearing date into September, when election-year politics make confirmation unlikely this year.
I would love to see Specter subpeona every member of that panel and grill them over this. It's a cheap shot that shouldn't go unanswered.

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