Judgments Clinton's Appointments to Bench Make Up a Most Diverse Group

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON'S choices as judges include a Baltimore prosecutor whose husband was appointed to the federal bench by President Ronald Reagan.

Others among the 129 Clinton nominated in his first two years include:

A renowned civil rights lawyer who is legally blind.

A veteran prosecutor who became the highest-ranking black in the Los Angeles district attorney's office.

A Latino activist in Chicago who worked as a U.S. attorney.

A Vermont Republican who was first chosen for the bench by President George Bush.

As a group, the Clinton judges make up the most diverse group of presidential appointments to date. Women and minorities account for 58 percent of the total. Blacks make up nearly one-fourth. Nine percent are Latino.

A few are Republicans. One is an outspoken anti-abortionist. Most have practical experience as prosecutors, state judges or corporate attorneys - or in some instances, all of the above.

"These are highly qualified appointees, better on average than those of Reagan, Bush or (Jimmy) Carter," said Sheldon Goldman, a University of Massachusetts political scientist.

He cites as evidence the American Bar Association's evaluation of judicial nominees. Sixty-five percent of Clinton's appointees have earned a well-qualified rating, compared to 59 percent for Bush, 55 percent for Reagan and 56 percent for Carter.

Last year, Clinton's team got bad marks even from liberal groups for its slow pace in filling the record number of vacancies in the three-tiered federal court system. Only a Supreme Court vacancy got the president's quick attention.

But in its second year, his administration picked up speed. Last month, Nan Aron, director of the Alliance of Justice, a coalition of liberal groups that monitors the judiciary, praised Clinton "for fulfilling his campaign promise to appoint only men and women of unquestioned intellect, judicial temperament, broad experience and a demonstrated concern for the individual rights protected by our Constitution. …