THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Thursday, October 13, 1994 TAG: 9410130480 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A2 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE DATELINE: WASHINGTON LENGTH: Medium: 62 lines
President Clinton is remaking the face of the federal bench.
During Clinton's first two years in office, 58 percent of his nominations for federal judgeships have been women and minorities, a much higher proportion than any previous president.
``The president has made it clear he wants the courts to reflect America,'' said White House Counsel Abner Mikva. ``Nobody is going to be picked because they are a woman or because they are black or because they are Hispanic but the president wants the court to reflect the pluralism of America.''
Among Clinton's federal judicial nominations in the past two years, 63 percent have been rated ``well qualified'' by the American Bar Association. That compares with 52 percent under President George Bush, 53 percent under Ronald Reagan and 57 percent under Jimmy Carter.
Change has come slowly to the federal judiciary. Of the 837 federal judges across the country, about 5 percent were black and about 13 percent were women before Clinton took office.
Among Clinton's 143 federal nominees, 30 percent have been women, 21 percent have been black and 8 percent have been Hispanic.
``The record is a spectacular one,'' said Sheldon Goldman, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. ``It is the first time in history that we have had an administration that has named over a majority of women and minorities.''
Goldman, who has studied federal judicial selection for 30 years, said the increase is important because women and minorities historically have been excluded from careers on the federal bench.
``It is important that people achieve occupational mobility and not be denied mobility because of their gender and race,'' Goldman said. ``It is also important to have a judiciary that represents society. How could minorities or women feel that justice is being done going before white male judges? Just as we expect a jury to be a cross-section of the community, this, too, is extremely important for a sense of fairness.''
Clinton faced a record number of judicial vacancies when he became president - 13.5 percent or 113 judgeships, White House officials said. The high vacancy rate was due partly to a rift between Republican Bush and the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee.
Still, the disorganized Clinton White House was unable to make much progress toward filling the vacancies during its first year. Only 28 judges were confirmed then.
Mikva attributed the slowness to ``the administration's problems'' and delays in the Senate committee. ILLUSTRATION: BY ADMINISTRATION
Percentage of female and minority nominees for federal
Clinton: 58 percent.
Bush: 13 percent.
Reagan: 8 percent.
Carter: 27 percent.