WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers have filed a federal lawsuit asking a judge to remove a member from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights so that a Bush administration appointee can succeed her on a board that tilts toward Democrats.
The appointee--Peter N. Kirsanow, a Cleveland labor lawyer--was also named as one of the plaintiffs against Commissioner Victoria Wilson, who is clinging to her seat despite the White House's contention that her term expired at the end of November. Wilson was appointed by President Clinton to fill in for Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, who died in December 1998.
The suit requests that the judge declare that "Kirsanow is now, and has been, since the date of his appointment" by President Bush on Dec. 6, "a member of the commission." It further asserts that "Wilson is no longer entitled or empowered to serve as a member of the commission since Nov. 29, 2001."
The lawsuit was dropped in a night box of the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia on Friday after a raucous commission meeting that Kirsanow attended, knowing that the panel's chairwoman, Mary Frances Berry, would refuse to seat him.