Liberal judge

Robert Novak
Posted: Dec 24, 2005 12:05 AM

WASHINGTON -- Federal District Judge James Robertson, who resigned from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court in protest over secret wiretaps ordered by President Bush, is regarded in Washington legal circles as one of President Bill Clinton's most liberal and partisan judicial appointments.

 Robertson, 67, has ruled consistently against the Bush administration's handling of enemy combatants. On July 15 this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed his 2004 ruling that a military commission could not try alleged terrorist Salim Ahmed Hamdan.

 In private Washington practice before going on the court, Robertson was an aggressive civil rights advocate. He spent 1969-1972 with the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, serving for a time as the organization's chief counsel in Jackson, Miss. In 1994, Clinton named him to the federal bench, where he remains despite his resignation from the FISA court.


 During hectic Senate bargaining on the Patriot Act Wednesday night, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales almost ruined the deal by telephoning Democratic senators with the misinformation that Republican Sens. Larry Craig and John Sununu had agreed to the administration's version of extending the act.

 In fact, the Republican dissenters had agreed only to a temporary extension of the act that provided the government with additional legal tools against terrorism. The White House assured the senators that Gonzales was not speaking for the president. A six-month extension then was passed by the Senate to permit negotiation of the act's provisions that critics say violate civil liberties of ordinary Americans.

 A footnote: On Wednesday night, presidential aides informed senators that Bush had never threatened to veto a short-term extension of the Patriot Act as hinted in White House briefings and as had been widely published. That opened the door to resolving the Senate deadlock.


 Republican senators complain that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, liberal lion of the Senate, has taken over effective control of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee because the Republican chairman, Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming, defers to him so much.

 In an era of intense partisanship, Kennedy and Enzi collaborate on spending and regulatory measures before their committee. In addition, Enzi has joined Kennedy in signing letters calling for investigation of Bush administration practices. "He is my favorite chairman," Kennedy said of Enzi Jan. 20, the first of many such compliments.

 Behind his back, Republican staffers have come to refer to the chairman as Sen. "Kenzi." However, Enzi last month declined to support Kennedy's version of a minimum wage increase and came up with his own proposal.


 Ken Rietz, long a major figure in Republican politics, is leaving Burson-Marsteller in March after 30 years while Democratic pollster-political consultant Mark Penn takes over the big lobbying and public relations firm as worldwide CEO.

 Penn was President Bill Clinton's pollster and political adviser and is expected to play a similar role in any presidential campaign by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. The selection of so prominent a Democrat at a time when the government is controlled by the Republicans raised eyebrows in Washington.

 Burson-Marsteller's Dec. 7 announcement of Penn's appointment related several other personnel changes but did not mention Rietz's name. He currently is the firm's Washington-based CEO, U.S.


 The new U.S. census estimates project a likely increase after 2010 of five House seats in Republican-dominated "red" states, one more than previously forecast. Nevada is now expected to gain a fourth seat in the House at the expense of Massachusetts, which would lose one of its current 10 seats.

 Previous projections had Arizona, Florida, Texas and Utah gaining one seat each. The losers would be Iowa, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Each of the states expected to gain in 2010, with the exception of Utah, also won an extra seat after the 2000 census.

 The projections were made by Election Data Services, a Washington-based consulting firm that provides information useful for gerrymandering.