Huang Case Judge Repeatedly Courts Big Controversies: Paez Caused Stir with Prop. 209 Remark

By Murray, Frank J. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 18, 1999 | Go to article overview

Huang Case Judge Repeatedly Courts Big Controversies: Paez Caused Stir with Prop. 209 Remark


Murray, Frank J., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


U.S. District Judge Richard Paez, whose 3 1/2-year (and counting) wait to be confirmed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made him a symbol of the judicial nomination logjam, has long been a magnet for controversy.

His decision Thursday to give John Huang a light sentence that freed him from congressional pressure to testify about Democratic fund-raising, despite requests to hold off sentencing a few weeks, was but the latest flash point for Judge Paez.

Most of Judge Paez's critics charge he violated judicial ethics in a speech at Boalt Hall law school in Berkeley, Calif., in April 1995, defying affirmative-action opponents by calling Proposition 209 "anti-civil rights" after becoming the first Mexican-American judge in Los Angeles federal court.

But Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls it payback for giving the poor nine years of legal aid. Mr. Leahy said Judge Paez's nomination is the longest-pending bench choice.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, a longtime sponsor of Judge Paez's during his career as city judge and advocate for migrant farm workers, said he "devoted his life to fairness, equality and justice."

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, and others pinpointed the judge's speeches attacking statewide initiatives limiting benefits for illegal immigrants and virtually ending affirmative action hiring or contracting while challenges to those initiatives were before federal courts.

Among other issues on which Judge Paez struck sparks:

* In 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed his lower-court victory as a lawyer winning a judgment that non-citizens have a right to jobs as peace officers and probation officers.

* As a federal trial judge he ruled in 1997 that Unocal Oil must defend charges it was responsible under the Alien Tort Claims Act for "slave labor conditions" on a Burma pipeline job once it was established the Burmese government was immune under U.S. law.

* He ruled the Los Angeles Times could not have access to computerized civil court records unless it contracted with the county to pay access fees.

* He upheld an early challenge to the constitutionality of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by granting the Justice Department an injunction restricting anti-abortion protests. …

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