California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - APRIL 2001
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - April 2001
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News / News Briefs
Bar foundation gives $50,000 grant to fund Conference of Delegates
Bar hit with $2.35 million fee demand in lawyer dues case
Bush administration ends ABA review of judicial candidates
Special publication in May Bar Journal
Davis appoints two public members to board of governors
George lauds five years of reform
2001 Annual Meeting will be held in Anaheim
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Trials Digest
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Legal Tech - FindLaw: Lawyers' home on the web
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Opinion
From the President - Butter a slice, not a full loaf
Is it wrong to copy a song?
Letters to the Editor
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Update on ethics
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MCLE Self-Study
Kids and the Law
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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You Need to Know
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - 2 new rulings send litigators back to basics
Forgery, grand theft, fraud convictions lead to resignation
Attorney Discipline
Bush administration ends ABA review of judicial candidates
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Indicating it no longer wants to continue what it called a "preferential arrangement," the Bush administration last month ended the half century-long practice of allowing the American Bar Association to evaluate federal judicial candidates prior to their nomination.

In a letter to ABA President Martha Barnett, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales said, "The question is whether the ABA should play a unique, quasi-official role and then have its voice heard before and above all others. We do not think that kind of preferential arrangement is either appropriate or fair."

The ABA's role in evaluating potential candidates has long irritated conservative lawmakers, who find the legal group's views too liberal. They were particularly embittered by the 1987 Senate rejection of Robert H. Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court. In recent years, Con-gressional Republicans have pushed for candidates to the federal bench who will not take an "activist" role.

The bar association has been evaluating potential judges since 1948, when it began to advise the Senate. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhow-er invited the ABA to provide ratings of candidates' professional qualifications in order to insulate the selection process from political pressure.

Barnett defended the ABA's track record, saying charges that the screening committee has a bias against Republic nominees are false. She also disputed Bush legal advisors' view that the ABA evaluation committee provides the only voice about potential nominees. Rather, she said, it represents "all segments of the legal profession in all areas of the country. . . . It is a mystery why the administration would not want this input."

Barnett said prospective candidates are evaluated solely on the basis of competence, integrity and temperament. The committee "does not consider ideology or political views of candidates and never has," she said.

The ABA will continue to provide evaluations of judicial nominees, but Barnett acknowledged that the process may not work as effectively if the names are not received before they are sent to the Senate.