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Rally Supports Bush Nominee for Court Post

October 30, 2003|Jean Guccione | Times Staff Writer

A group gathered Wednesday to urge the confirmation of Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl to the federal appellate bench included a judge who had overturned her most controversial ruling.

Justice Paul Turner asked national leaders to put aside the partisan politics that have stalled Kuhl's nomination to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviews cases from nine Western states, including California.

Turner, presiding justice of the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division 5, made his remarks during a lunchtime rally in support of Kuhl, a supervising judge in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. About 50 judges, prosecutors, sheriff's deputies and victims-rights advocates gathered to defend and praise Kuhl outside the Mosk Courthouse in downtown L.A., where she works. She was not present.

Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein oppose Kuhl's nomination by President Bush, which has been pending before the Senate since the Judiciary Committee threw its support behind the judge in May in a 10-9 vote along party lines. There is speculation that Democratic senators will try to filibuster her nomination on the Senate floor.

Kuhl, first nominated to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2001, was rated "well qualified" by the American Bar Assn. She also has widespread support among her judicial colleagues that crosses political and gender lines.

Turner defended Kuhl on abortion, an issue that has generated vocal opposition to her nomination, and on her now-controversial ruling in a patient's privacy case.

As a 29-year-old lawyer in President Reagan's administration, Kuhl called for the Justice Department to lead an attack on the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion. She also helped to persuade Reagan's attorney general to change sides and support a restored tax exemption for Bob Jones University and other racially discriminatory private schools.

Kuhl, 51, has repeatedly said that, as a federal judge, she would follow the law, which gives a woman the right to have an abortion, according to Turner.

"It's been three years since she was nominated, and in that time period, her opponents have not been able to produce one scrap of evidence ... in which Judge Kuhl has indicated that she will not vote to uphold a woman's right to choose," he said.

Turner wrote the opinion that reversed Kuhl's decision to dismiss an invasion-of-privacy claim by a breast cancer patient whose doctor had allowed a drug company representative to watch his physical examination of her while she was disrobed from the waist up without telling her who the man was.

After the rally, Turner said that, although Kuhl had been wrong in her legal analysis, it was unfair to characterize her decision as the result of insensitivity or bias.

But Nan Aron of the liberal Alliance for Justice said Kuhl's statement "will not be able to offset a very troubling record." She said that all of Bush's judicial nominees say they will follow the law and urged Bush to nominate consensus candidates to the bench. So far, 167 Bush nominees have been confirmed, including 29 to the Court of Appeals, Aron said.

Before the rally, Vilma Martinez, a former president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also defended early actions of Kuhl, her former law partner.

"She was younger then and secondly, she was taking a position on behalf of a client ....I think she'd be an excellent addition to the 9th Circuit," Martinez said.

Roy Burns, president of the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, agreed. "She has, we think, a better perspective on public safety, law enforcement" than other members of the 9th Circuit, he said, noting the circuit's high reversal rate.

The deputies union and Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys sponsored the rally.

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