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Rogan may be denied seat on federal bench

Boxer says she intends to block the former GOP congressman.

December 04, 2007|David G. Savage | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. James E. Rogan, a Republican from Glendale, lost his House seat not long after he helped lead the GOP's drive to impeach President Clinton.

Now Rogan faces the prospect of being denied a coveted seat as a federal judge in Los Angeles.

The former congressman is a state Superior Court judge in Orange County, and President Bush nominated him in January to be a U.S. district judge for the central district, which is based in Los Angeles.

But the nomination has stalled, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) has confirmed that she is blocking Rogan from being confirmed to the lifetime seat as a federal trial judge.

"Her view is that this nominee is out of the mainstream," said Natalie Ravitz, a spokeswoman for Boxer. "She has supported nominees who reflect the values of Californians, but she also made a promise she would not support extreme nominees."

Ravitz said Rogan had a 100% voting record in Congress as judged by the American Conservative Union. He also voted against clean-air and clean-water measures, she said. "He was also one of the most fervent backers of impeachment, and that was a factor," she added.

Boxer's objection will probably kill the nomination, said staff members for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"The chairman's policy has been that he does not move forward on any nomination without the support of both home-state senators," said Erica Chabot, a spokeswoman for committee chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). "We don't have a blue slip [approving Rogan] from either home-state senator."

Though Boxer said she was firmly opposed to Rogan, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has not taken a stand. An aide said Feinstein usually didn't make a decision on a controversial nominee until the committee held hearings.

Rogan has many supporters who say he is smart, engaging and superbly qualified to be a judge. The American Bar Assn. committee that reviews judicial nominees endorsed him as well qualified. His supporters also note that a bipartisan judicial selection commission for California, led by Los Angeles investor Gerald L. Parsky, recommended Rogan for the judgeship.

Shortly after Bush took office in 2001, Parsky's commission was set up to select federal trial judges for California who could win the backing of the Republican White House and the state's two Democratic senators. The six-member panels serving different regions of the state include three Republicans and three Democrats.

There has been little controversy over the federal trial judges, and more than two dozen of Bush's California nominees won quick Senate approval.

Jason Roe, a former top aide to Rogan, accused Boxer of reneging on a deal that led to Parsky's commission. "If she can 'blue slip' a nominee, what's the point of having the commission in the first place?" he asked.

In recent years, Rogan and Clinton have exchanged friendly notes. "If Bill Clinton and Jim Rogan can move past impeachment, why can't Sen. Boxer?" Roe asked.

Boxer's aide said the senator never promised to support all of Bush's nominees simply because they were recommended by the bipartisan California panel.

"It is my hope and expectation that our process will result in highly qualified, moderate judicial nominees who will serve California well," Boxer said in May 2001, when Parsky's commission was created.

When Clinton was impeached for alleged perjury and obstruction of justice in December 1998, Rogan was chosen as one of 13 House "managers" who presented the prosecution in the Senate. The Republican prosecutors fell well short of winning the required two-thirds vote to convict the president, and he was acquitted of the charges in February 1999.

The next year, Rogan lost his reelection bid to Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank). After leaving Congress, Rogan served in the Bush administration as an undersecretary of commerce and director of the U.S. Patent Office.

He returned to California in 2004, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him last year to the Superior Court judgeship.

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