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Jewish World Review
Dec. 3, 2007
/ 23 Kislev 5768
Rogan's Run: A Clinton-era grudge may derail a judicial nominee with bipartisan support
John H. Fund
How much more partisan and petty can Washington get? California's Sen. Barbara Boxer is refusing even to allow a hearing for a judicial nominee who has the backing of prominent Democrats, in part because she harbors a decade-old grudge about the Clinton impeachment.
Jim Rogan, now a California Superior Court judge, was a member of the House Judiciary Committee back in 1998, when it fell on him to be one of the 13 managers making the case before the Senate for Mr. Clinton's conviction. It was generally understood at the time that Mr. Rogan's role was unpopular in his Pasadena-based district and could cost him his political career. Indeed, Hollywood liberals raised big bucks for Mr. Rogan's 2000 opponent and were able to defeat him in a district that wound up voting for Al Gore by 10 points.
But Mr. Rogan bounced back. In 2001, the Senate unanimously confirmed him for a top job overseeing intellectual property law at the Commerce Department. His reorganization of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office there earned him accolades from both business and labor groups. In 2004, Mr. Rogan returned to California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him to the bench.
In January of this year, President Bush appointed Mr. Rogan to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court. A letter supporting his nomination cited his integrity and "reputation for fairness" and was signed by such liberal former colleagues as Reps. Pete Stark, Anna Eshoo and the late Juanita Millender-McDonald. The Rogan nomination also has the support of Michael Dukakis, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and key members of the Clinton impeachment defense team such as David Kendall and Nicole Seligman. Mr. Rogan has received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association. Many people in both parties, noting Mr. Rogan's background as a high school dropout from a broken family that was frequently on welfare, believe he is a role model for troubled young people.
But none of that is good enough for Ms. Boxer, who has given him a "blue slip" exercising her prerogative under Senate tradition to block judicial nominations from her home state. That means the Judiciary Committee won't even give him a hearing. Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz told me the senator's opposition is based on Mr. Rogan's "out of the mainstream" policy views, but Ms. Ravitz also told the Associated Press that Mr. Rogan "was one of the most enthusiastic backers of impeachment he thought President Clinton had committed high crimes and misdemeanors. The Senate certainly disagreed with that conclusion, as did Sen. Boxer."
Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to President Clinton, is disappointed in the Boxer rebellion against Mr. Rogan. "This is a man who would make a great judge," he told the Washington Post, adding that if Ms. Boxer "got to know Jim Rogan since the impeachment days as I have, [she] would reconsider her opposition."
Many California legal figures are shocked at Ms. Boxer's sudden animus. In 2001, the Bush administration struck an agreement with Sen. Boxer and her California colleague, Dianne Feinstein, to create a panel to fill federal district court vacancies in the Golden State. Known as the Parsky Commission after Bush adviser Gerald Parsky, it is composed of members appointed separately by President Bush and both senators. Since 2001, its members have unanimously approved 27 candidates for judicial vacancies, all of whom have been later approved by Sens. Boxer and Feinstein. Indeed, Ms. Boxer recently praised the committee's picks as "the best of the best." At least one Democrat who has served on the committee told me of their profound disappointment that Ms. Boxer has now decided to second-guess its work: "This sends a bad message to good people who should be on the bench, since it shows the rug can be pulled out from under them at a very late stage."
Mr. Rogan isn't speaking to reporters, even though his nomination has been languishing for almost a year. Jason Roe, a former Rogan aide, says that the Boxer hold undermines the Parsky Commission's efforts to ensure that California judicial picks have bipartisan support. "If she can't vote for him on the floor, that's one thing," he told me. "But she won't even allow Jim a hearing after her own appointees to the judicial selection commission voted to approve him. If she has objections, the place for them is out in the open where he can defend himself." Indeed, while Ms. Boxer is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, she would be free to testify against Mr. Rogan at a hearing.
Sen. Boxer in the past actually appeared with Mr. Rogan at a Senate Judiciary hearing. It happened in 1997, when then-Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri was leading the opposition to the confirmation of Margaret Morrow, a former state bar association president whom Ms. Boxer was supporting for a District Court vacancy. Mr. Ashcroft felt Ms. Morrow was a "judicial activist," in part because of a speech she'd given to a women's legal conference in which she had asserted that "the law is almost by definition on the cutting edge of social thought. It is a vehicle through which we ease the transition from the rules which have always been to the rules which are to be." Rep. Rogan had disagreements with Ms. Morrow's views, but he thought her clearly qualified. With his support and Ms. Boxer's, the Senate confirmed her, 67-28.
Now Ms. Boxer is refusing to allow Mr. Rogan even the courtesy of a hearing. Left-wing bloggers who are commending her "courage" in stopping "the reactionary Rogan" from taking a federal judgeship for which so many people in both parties think he's eminently qualified. Far from exhibiting courage, Ms. Boxer is knuckling under to her party's most extreme elements.
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JWR contributor John H. Fund is author, most recently, of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy". (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.)
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© 2006, John H. Fund