Yesterday, I posted a piece by Byron York about the looming confirmation struggle over Miguel Estrada. According to that article, virtually the sole source of the charge that Estrada is too much of a conservative ideologue to be a federal judge is Paul Bender, Estrada’s former supervisor at the Justice Department’s Office of the Solicitor General (who, by the way, always gave Estrada high marks in written performance evaluations). In today’s National Review Online, Robert Alt exposes Bender as a liberal ideologue. Bender was the “political deputy” in Estrada’s office, which sounds like a polite way of saying that he was there impose the liberal biases of the Clinton administration on the career lawyers in the Solicitor General’s office. (Without engaging in excessive “lawyer talk” and at the risk of oversimplifying, I should explain that the Solicitor General argues the positions of the U.S. government before the Supreme Court. To some extent, the Solicitor General necessarily is a political creature, but members of the office have always tried above all else to be fair-minded lawyers, and the office retains a strong reputation for professionalism). Alt’s piece demonstrates Bender’s “unabashed liberalism,” which manifested itself in the reversal of the office’s position on child pornography, to cite one example. According to Alt, Bender was later booted from his role as neutral arbitrator in a dispute between the Arizona Gaming Control Board and Indian tribes based on “serious concerns” by the American Arbitration Association “regarding Bender’s attitude and approach” including “inappropriate communications” with one of the parties. But most significantly, for purposes of evaluating Estrada’s qualifications for the bench, Bender’s boss, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman (a liberal in his own right), has written to the Senate Judiciary Committee to disagree with Bender’s assessment of Estrada and to laud Estrada’s professionalism and judgment.
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