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'Bird Battles Ignorant Mob'

July 22, 1986

Is there merit in the persistent opposition to Chief Justice Bird?

1--Is Bird qualified for this high office? She graduated cum laude from the University of California School of Law at Berkeley, and served as a member of the governor's Cabinet. Rose Bird had not served as a member of the judiciary before her appointment, but neither had 18 U.S. Supreme Court justices, including Earl Warren, or William O. Douglas, or William H. Rehnquist. Laurence Tribe, constitutional law expert at Harvard, has ranked Bird's opinions as "among the most scholarly, thoughtful, intelligent opinions written by an appellate judge."

2--The sharpest criticism is directed against Bird's rulings in a number of death penalty cases. Yet her immediate predecessor, Donald Wright, disallowed the death penalty 176 times, versus 56 times for Bird. As a result there were no executions in California for 10 years before Rose Bird was appointed.

3--Could sexism be involved? The male justices up for confirmation voted with Bird against death sentences. They have not been attacked with the same vicious persistence as has Rose Bird. In several cases, reconfirmation has been supported for the men who voted exactly as she did. Far from "being turned loose," these defendants against the death penalty are still in jail awaiting retrial.

So what is the basis? Could it be that some individuals feel threatened by capable women in positions of power? Is this part of an effort to turn back the clock, and to try to force women back into the "kitchen, children, and church" pattern of restrictions?

ELLIDA TOPIK

Laguna Hills

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