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Fox Launches Assault on the ABA

Reported by Janie - August 2, 2006 -

During last night's "Special Report with Brit Hume", Fox News Correspondent Megyn Kendall filed a report regarding Bush's latest judicial nominee, Michael Wallace. Wallace was recently given a unanimous "unqualified" score by the ABA, but rather than explore the reasons for this qualification, Kendall, Fox and the GOP decided to attack the ABA for "liberal bias" simply because they did not receive the rating they wanted.

MK: "Ever hear of Mike Wallace? No, not that one, this one. Well, you're about to. The latest fight brewing over judicial nominee will be about this man. A former clerk to the late Chief Justice Rehnquist, now a successful attorney in Mississippi. He's been nominated to sit on the New Orleans based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The latest road block to confirmation? An American Bar Association report voting Wallace unanimously 'not qualified', the ABA's lowest rating. The report which relies heavily on anonymous sources, all but calls Wallace a racist, saying he 'lack(s) tolerance', is 'insensitive', 'high-handed' and is 'hostile' to minority rights. The rating drew immediate fire from Conservatives who have long accused the ABA of having a liberal bias. Wallace's former boss Senator Trent Lott called the rating outrageous (you mean THIS Trent Lott? Kendall also does not mention in what capacity Wallace worked with Lott. According to the WSJ: "Wallace had served as counsel to Senator Trent Lott during President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial."). The Op-Ed Page of the Wall Street Journal called it political payback. Noting that the ABA's President Michael Greco and Steven Tober who chairs the 15 member standing committee that voted on Wallace, harshly criticized Wallace years ago when Wallace chaired the Legal Services Corporation, a left-leaning group Wallace sought to reform. The ABA says neither Greco or Tober actually voted on Wallace, but Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter says that doesn't mean they didn't influence the vote."

AS (clip): "The President and the Chairman on the Standing Committee have considerable influence in the Committee process. And, with those people in command and in charge, there has to be both the fact of the impartiality and the appearance."

MK: "On Tuesday, Specter circulated a letter to the Judiciary Committee which was meeting on other nominations, urging it to reject the report, an unprecedented move. Specter will also urge the committee for a new ABA report from a panel of unbiased lawyers. Specter also wants the ABA to identify all of it's sources, to name the people attacking Wallace, something the chairman says he'll now push for in every ABA report."

AS (clip): "I do no think that they ought to be anonymous if we are going to base a Senate judgment on them. It does not give the nominee a chance to defend himself."

MK: "The judiciary committee will convene on Thursday to discuss these and other concerns, and in the mean time Wallace's confirmation hearing has been pushed back to September, which given the upcoming midterm elections could make his confirmation impossible this year."

Interesting how the tide turns when Fox and Conservatives don't get their way.

From the January 25th episode of "Special Report" discussing the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito:

"Barnes said that she 'replaced Byron White & moved the court considerably to the left,' then went back to how Dems have changed everything, claiming Dems don't care about 'qualifications' or 'ABA ratings.'

So ABA ratings were important in the nomination of Alito? Well, guess who was instrumental in giving that rating? Steven Tober - the very man accused of wanting "political payback":

"The ABA's Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary came up with the rating after confidential interviews with hundreds of Alito's colleagues and a review of his writings. Their options were well-qualified, qualified and not qualified.

'The committee is of the unanimous opinion that Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. is well-qualified, said Stephen L. Tober, chairman of the ABA panel."

At the time of Alito's nomination, the Washington Times, a conservative news outlet, had this to say:

"The American Bar Association yesterday rated Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. 'well-qualified' to serve on the Supreme Court, even as several left-leaning advocacy groups released reports arguing his judicial philosophy would force the court rightward."

If Conservatives have "long accused" the ABA of liberal bias as Kendall claims, why didn't the Washington Times say the ABA issued the rating along with several other left-leaning advocacy groups, rather than "even as several"?

Even Fox News themselves referred to the ABA as a "respected professional association" during the Alito hearings.

Kendall also did not bother to mention, as it would have hurt the credibility of her argument, that out of Bush's nearly 200 judicial nominees since 2003, only 6 have been given an unqualified rating.

So where exactly is this long-standing claim that the ABA is "left-leaning"? Why does Kendall not include any supporting facts to back-up her argument?

Could this be the real reason behind the sudden attack on the ABA?

"A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of 'signing statements' by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.

In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined.

The panel members described the development as a serious threat to the Constitution's system of checks and balances, and they urged Congress to pass legislation permitting court review of such statements."

We report ALL pertinent information - you decide!