Word among some attendees at this past weekend’s American Constitution Society for Law and Policy meeting in Washington, D.C. was that Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had done the leftist organization and its many lawyers and wanna-be legal scholars a huge favor.
“First, Specter refused to give [Supreme Court nominee Judge John] Roberts a full endorsement,” says a member of the ACS, which was started several years ago as a liberal competitor to the more well-known and established Federalist Society. “Then he presses the Administration for documents on Roberts for us. He’s been a more than fair chairman in a fight we aren’t expecting to win.”
There was also talk over the weekend of Roberts-related information being passed to liberal legal interest groups from “insiders” on the Judiciary committee. “We knew about the White House wrangling with Specter over the start date of confirmation hearings long before it got out publicly last week,” says the lawyer.
Over the weekend it was learned that the White House had been pushing for the confirmation process to start earlier than September 6, the date hearings on Roberts will now begin.
Republican Judiciary staff don’t buy the notion that Democrats are getting anything from inside the committee. But they and other Republicans on the Hill remain concerned about the presence of Hannibal G. Williams II Kemerer, who last winter was hired by Specter to join the committee’s GOP staff to work on judicial nominations.
When word leaked of the hiring, Kemerer was quickly reassigned, but he remains on the committee staff. Before joining Judiciary, he served as the NAACP’s assistant general counsel. Kemerer’s presence on the committee is important because it appears that Democrats intend to play the race card in the Roberts nomination fight. Already, NAACP Legal Defense Fund director and legal counsel Elaine Jones has begun strategizing with Hill Democrats. Jones, who has worked with Kemerer, was the lawyer who tried to change the outcome of a federal affirmative action case in Michigan, by having Democrats in the Senate delay a federal judicial nomination that might have changed the outcome of the case that was playing out in the 6th Circuit.
Democratic staffers on Judiciary have spent the past two weeks combing over any and all Roberts writings, and have hit on the civil rights issue, in part because there is so little to point to. “It’s hard to refute a negative,” says a Democratic Judiciary staffer, “and we have the guys like Kennedy and Leahy who can pull those kinds of charges off.”
Republicans staffers on the Judiciary Committee, however, insist that while Democrats may want to play games with Roberts’ nomination, it won’t be because of Kemerer, who they say has nothing to do with the Roberts nomination, and who has had no access to any documents or inside information about the nomination or the nomination process.
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