Impending Ninth Circuit Nominee’s Record "Troubling" In Many Areas

California’s Senators Urged to Conduct Careful Review

California state Judge Carolyn B. Kuhl, reportedly soon to be nominated by President Bush to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, has a troubling record on issues such as civil rights, reproductive rights, and medical privacy rights and should be scrutinized carefully by the U.S. Senate, People For the American Way said today.

The Los Angeles Times and other media have reported that Kuhl is expected to be nominated later today. A letter sent by PFAW to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein yesterday notes, for example, that over the objections of some 200 Civil Rights Division lawyers, the general counsel of the Treasury Department and the head of the IRS, Kuhl and several other Reagan Justice Department officials successfully pushed in 1982 for the reinstatement of tax-exempt status for Bob Jones University, an institution notorious for its discriminatory policies and practices.

"This nomination furthers the Bush administration’s goal of packing the federal courts with right-wing ideologues," said PFAW’s President Ralph G. Neas.

The letter urged the senators to consider the issues raised in the letter carefully in evaluating the expected nomination.

PFAW will continue an exhaustive review of Kuhl’s record, along with the records of other troubling judicial nominees.

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The full text of Neas’ letter to Senators Boxer and Feinstein follows:

On behalf of People For the American Way, I am writing to express our serious concern about the possible nomination of Carolyn B. Kuhl for a seat on the United State Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Kuhl’s record as both a lawyer and judge raises troubling issues.

Several published reports state that when Kuhl was a special assistant to the attorney general under the Reagan administration, she and two other Justice Department officials successfully advocated reinstating the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University and other racially discriminatory institutions, reversing an 11 year IRS policy. According to The New York Times, Kuhl’s position was opposed by the Department of the Treasury’s general counsel, the head of the IRS, and more than 200 lawyers in the Civil Rights Division who signed a letter stating their concern regarding the reversal. Indeed, the reversal created a legal and political firestorm, with many Republicans and Democrats joining in condemnation of the administration’s position. The Supreme Court later rejected the Justice Department’s reversal in an 8-1 vote.

Kuhl’s positions on reproductive issues also are troubling. She co-authored an amicus curiae brief for the Justice Department in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned and that states should be allowed to ban all abortions. Additionally, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected Kuhl’s argument in support of a Reagan administration rule that required federally funded family planning providers to notify parents within 10 days of prescribing contraceptives to minors. Furthermore, as a lawyer in private practice, Kuhl filed an amicus curiae brief in Rust v. Sullivan, arguing that prohibiting doctors who receive federal funds from discussing abortion does not violate the First Amendment.

As a California Superior Court judge, Kuhl was overruled by a California court of appeals in a decision that dismissed the invasion of privacy claim of a breast cancer patient whose doctor allowed a drug company salesman, whom the doctor did not identify, to observe her breast examination. Judge Kuhl had held that even if the patient’s story was correct, the facts did not amount to an illegal invasion of privacy. The California appellate court disagreed and reversed Judge Kuhl’s decision.

We urge you to consider carefully these and all other relevant aspects of Carolyn Kuhl’s record as you review her nomination to the Ninth Circuit. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can provide you with any further information.

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