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Bostonian Seen as Choice for Rights Post : Nomination: Deval Patrick, a lawyer with ties to the NAACP, is expected to be named soon by Clinton, sources say.


WASHINGTON — President Clinton has settled on Boston lawyer Deval L. Patrick in a third effort to fill the top civil rights enforcement position at the Justice Department, Administration sources said Saturday.

The nomination of Patrick, 37, a Harvard Law School graduate who has worked closely with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc., is expected to be announced shortly, perhaps early this week, the sources said.

The President withdrew his first nominee, C. Lani Guinier, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, when she was criticized in the Senate as having advocated alternatives to one-person, one-vote democracy in order to increase the political power of blacks.

Guinier insisted that the academic writings in question had been misinterpreted. She professed deep hurt at the withdrawal, and many black leaders were angry because both the President and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton knew her personally and had never before expressed disagreement with her.

Last month, Clinton's second choice, District of Columbia Corporation Counsel John Payton, withdrew from consideration when some members of the Congressional Black Caucus spoke out against him.

They questioned whether Payton was committed to their view that the 1965 Voting Rights Act allowed congressional districts to be drawn up to help the election of black candidates.

Payton also incurred criticism by acknowledging that he had not always exercised his right to vote.

Although last-minute problems have arisen with other Clinton appointees, officials said Patrick has cleared the FBI's background investigation and that the agency recently forwarded his name to the White House, where he is considered the only candidate.

Because of his close ties to the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, Administration sources said they expect that the nomination will help Clinton mend fences with African American leaders.

Sources said Patrick, while nominally a Democrat, has never been especially active in politics. With degrees from both Harvard University and Harvard Law School, he joined the law firm of Hill & Barlow, one of the largest in New England, after working as a law clerk in the early 1980s for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California.

After graduating from Harvard but before entering law school, he received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to travel and study in the Third World, including work for the United Nations in Sudan.

He also was one of three finalists that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) considered last spring for recommendation as U.S. attorney in Boston.

Patrick's father was a jazz musician who traveled widely and once played with Thelonious Monk, the celebrated pianist.

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