Gingrich Weighs in on Pick for Justice Civil Rights Post: Hits Lee's Record in Letter to Lott

Article excerpt

House Speaker Newt Gingrich has written to Senate counterpart Trent Lott - an unusual move for a House leader - to criticize Bill Lann Lee, President Clinton's nominee for the Justice Department's top civil rights post.

As reported in Friday's editions of The Washington Times, Mr. Lee last year attempted to establish a consent decree mandating race- and sex-based preferences as a remedy to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by 12 female police officers.

"Such a move would have been a back-door thwarting of the will of the People of California with regard to Proposition 209," the Georgia Republican wrote to Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican, referring to California's law outlawing hiring based on race and sex.

On the same day California voters did away with affirmative action, Mr. Lee tried to ram through a measure that would have forced the Los Angeles Police Department to hire based on race and sex for the next 18 years.

Clint Bolick, vice president of the Institute for Justice, who is leading an effort to oppose Mr. Lee's nomination as assistant attorney general, said the chances of defeating Mr. Lee are increasing.

"It is unusual for a member of the House to weigh in on any executive branch nomination, and particularly given that Gingrich has been very careful with the issue of racial preferences," he said.

Mr. Gingrich said Mr. Lee's actions "fall dramatically short" in key areas.

"Quotas and set-asides are clearly illegal in the State of California as they are in the federal government," Mr. Gingrich wrote.

As counsel to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Mr. Lee presented a consent decree to the Los Angeles City Council last Election Day, shortly before Proposition 209 passed. The council approved the decree, which outlined hiring goals for women, Latinos, Asians and blacks. Mr. Lee presented it to Magistrate Judge Rosalyn Chapman.

Mr. Lee was one of several lawyers representing 12 female police officers who sued the LAPD, charging sexual harassment and seeking monetary damages. But when the judge in charge of the case, William D. …