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Inquiry on Judicial Nominee's Abortion Views Draws Criticism

April 05, 1985|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee reacted angrily Thursday to a questionnaire that three conservative Republicans sent to a judicial nominee, in which they asked whether he believes "that a 'viable' fetus is a human being" and sought a list of his political contributions for the last 10 years.

The eight-page document was sent by Sens. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and John P. East (R-N.C.) to Joseph H. Rodriguez, President Reagan's nominee for a federal judgeship in New Jersey.

It contains seven questions about the legalization of abortion. It also asks Rodriguez for his views on matters involving prayer in public schools, the right to bear arms, the equal rights amendment, union power, the death penalty, affirmative action and school desegregation.

Called 'Outrageous'

Democrats said Thursday that this amounted to a political litmus test. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) called the questionnaire "outrageous" and said that he was especially upset over the questions about Rodriguez's political contributions and activities in the last decade.

"That's like asking whether you're a Catholic, what church do you belong to, do you contribute to your church," Biden said Thursday.

The skirmish erupted during the opening round of the Administration's effort to fill 114 vacancies on the federal bench, a seventh of the total. Some Democrats said that they were particularly troubled because Reagan recently withdrew two other nominations that ran into strong conservative opposition.

Hatch defended the questions as "fair" and "legitimate. . . . Any senator can submit questions in writing to any judge."

The three GOP senators are awaiting a response from Rodriguez, New Jersey's state public advocate, who, if confirmed, would be the state's first Latino federal judge.

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