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Last week, CBS News published a story claiming that the Bush administration was considering ending the practice of allowing the American Bar Association to screen candidates for federal judgeships.

The considering is done. Yesterday, President Bush announced he was putting the kibosh on the ABA’s exalted position in the judicial-selection process, a role that, according to the story, the ABA has played since the 1950s, using a “special panel” of 15 lawyers who “advise in the selection of federal and Supreme Court justices.”

“The committee has been very influential in the selection process,” CBS said.

Yeah, well, not any more.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know the American Bar Association even had a role in this process. Na?vely, I thought only lawmakers screened, vetted and approved or disapproved of candidates for federal judgeships.

Now that I do know, I have a question: “Why?”

In fact, what business does Congress have in allowing any lawyer trade group or union access to the process of selecting federal judges? Talk about the potential for stacking the deck in your favor; it’s no wonder the latter 20th century has seen a huge increase in the amount of activism, not interpretation of law, coming from the federal bench.

Conservative Republicans and Bush administration legal eagles have, correctly, pointed out that the measure was considered and implemented because the ABA is little more than a bastion of liberal activism. The group is for unlimited immigration; for gun control; for affirmative action; and against limited tort reform that would reduce — naturally — lawyer’s fees.

That’s leftist, no doubt.

But even if the ABA were a conservative group, the principle remains the same; Congress has no business abdicating their responsibility for helping to select who serves on the federal bench.

Wait, you say; what indication is there that the legal industry tilts to liberalism? Plenty.

Besides the judicial activism — making law from the bench, rather than interpreting it, like the Florida Supreme Court tried to do last November — there is this alarming stat: During the 2000 election cycle, lawyers, law firms and their political action committees contributed $73.6 million to Democratic candidates and $32.3 million to Republicans, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.

The same report says Bush received about a million dollars more for his campaign personally from lawyers than did Gore, but maybe that figure can be explained by suggesting that most lawyers just figured Bush would win. And he did.

No doubt, though, the figures were heavily skewed towards liberal Democrats.

Nevertheless, and regardless of who got the money or which party got the most, I wonder: Why is the legal industry contributing to the people who make the laws? And why are lawmakers taking that dough? Isn’t that more than just a little conflict of interest, considering most lawmakers are, themselves, attorneys?

Do lawmakers opposed to the expulsion of the ABA really expect Americans to believe there aren’t already enough lawyers in Congress to do their own judicial screening?

Please — an obscene amount of lawyers-turned-lawmakers is one of the reasons why so many of our laws are ambiguous, vague and unconstitutional in the first place. Only a lawyer can figure them out, and that doesn’t bode well for those of us who are supposed to comply with them.

The Bush administration says it wants to end this unholy alliance between the ABA and the federal judicial appointment process for one simple, but correct, reason. Al Gonzales, Bush’s White House counsel, said, “We’re looking for people who believe in judicial restraint, who don’t believe in legislating from the bench.”

The fact that Democrats are ticked off about this should tell you something.

In a letter to the administration, Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., make it clear they wanted to see the unholy alliance continued.

In their letter, they say the ABA screening process “has served our nation well, and ending it would imperil the process of selecting and confirming federal judges.”

Imperil the process? No, this sounds like whining: “Wait — you’re tearing down a system that was advantageous to our side!”

Here’s another bit of laughable hypocrisy. Schumer and Leahy wrote, “Eliminating ABA review will also further polarize a process that, by now, all senators agree cries out for less partisanship.”

Again, translated, that means, “We won’t get our way anymore and we’re upset about it.”

Shouldn’t the process be “polarized?” Judges who abhor the Constitution and have a judicial record of demonstrating same have no business on the federal bench, do they? If Democrats believe that, then why are they opposed to the “partisan” process of selecting judges? Are they the cause of so much “partisan” bickering?

Sounds like it to me. In fact, if more lawmakers were as concerned as Gonzales is about the constitutional role of judges, the nation as a whole would most likely adopt a more constitutional attitude toward government.

That means guys like Schumer and Leahy would never have won office to begin with. And maybe that’s the real complaint here; if judges demonstrate constitutionality, Americans will eventually expect their leaders to do the same.

By complaining about keeping a process that historically favors the selection of anti-constitutional judges, Democrats again demonstrate that theirs is not a party reflective of the founding principles of freedom and individuality inherent in this great nation.

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