Study: American Bar Association Liberally Biased, Favored Clinton Nominees

By Seth Lewis | July 7, 2008 | 8:28pm EDT

( - Conservatives who complain that the American Bar Association has a liberal bias are pointing to the release this week of a study conducted by a Northwestern University law professor that blames the ABA for favoritism in its review of federal appeals court nominees since 1989.

Looking at nominees with no judicial experience, researcher James Lindgren found the ABA was 10 times more likely to overwhelmingly approve Clinton administration nominees than those tapped by former President George H. W. Bush.

"Just being nominated by Clinton instead of Bush is a stronger positive variable than any other credential or than all other credentials put together," Lindgren wrote.

With conservatives grumbling about the alleged bias, the current president, George W. Bush, last winter scrapped the practice of asking the ABA to screen candidates before they are sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But those Republican allegations lacked the research data that Lindgren has now provided in his survey of 108 nominees confirmed as federal appeals court judges during the administrations of the first President Bush and President Bill Clinton.

After judging the nominees on a series of standards - federal clerkship, education at a top 10 law-school, private and government practice - Lindgren then evaluated how similarly qualified candidates were rated by the ABA.

Among the nominees with no judicial experience, 65 percent of Clinton's nominees were unanimously rated "well qualified," compared to 17 percent of Bush's choices.

"Amazingly, a Bush appointee with good credentials ... has a lower probability of getting the highest ABA rating than a Clinton appointee who has none of these credentials," Lindgren wrote.

The ABA rejects Lindgren's research, saying it reviewed 17 of Bush's 44 federal trial and appeals court nominees and gave all of them high ratings, according to a UPI report.

"I just don't see bias," ABA President-elect Robert Hirshon told the wire service.

The Lindgren study showed no significant difference in the way the ABA review board rated Bush and Clinton nominees with judicial experience, and that alone should keep Republicans from declaring victory, said Leonard Leo, vice president of the lawyers division at the Federalist Society, a conservative law group.

"Conservatives were part right and part wrong," he said.

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