President Bush nominated conservative Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl of Los Angeles and Republican activist Richard Clifton of Honolulu on Friday to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, considered among the most liberal federal courts in the country.
The lifetime appointments require Senate confirmation. California and Hawaii are both represented by Democratic senators who said they would have to look more closely at the appointments before making a decision.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she has heard from numerous constituents who oppose Kuhl, now a judge at Los Angeles County Superior Court.
“These letters and calls raise a number of issues important to Californians including: the right to choose, civil rights, representation of tobacco companies, privacy rights and whistleblower protection,” Boxer said in a statement Friday. “I am continuing to evaluate this nomination.”
California’s other Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein, promised not to block a vote on Kuhl. Feinstein had raised objections with the White House after it floated Kuhl’s name for the federal bench without consulting California lawmakers.
Feinstein has since “had a chance to discuss it with the White House and now she wants to hear the full case for Judge Kuhl and make a decision,” said the senator’s spokesman, Howard Gantman.
Hawaii’s two Democratic U.S. senators also reserved comment on Clifton.
Sen. Daniel Inouye, who earlier complained that no one had approached him about Clifton’s potential nomination, said Friday he wants to hear the American Bar Association’s evaluation of the appointment. Sen. Daniel Akaka said he sought “the mana‘o (advice) of Hawaii’s legal community. Pending this review, I will reserve judgment and further comment.”
Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano earlier urged opposition to Clifton, whom he said has demonstrated that he “is very partisan.”
“If you want appoint a Republican to the federal judiciary, there are a lot of good Republican lawyers around who are fair, who are objective, who believe in the integrity of the judicial system,” Cayetano said last month. “You don’t need politicians sitting on the bench.”
Clifton, who has been a partner in the firm of Cades Schutte Fleming & Wright since 1977, also has served as volunteer attorney for the local Republican Party in Honolulu and as legal counsel for GOP gubernatorial candidates in Hawaii.
The 9th Circuit handles federal appeals from California, Oregon, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington.