Reagan gets poor marks for minority appointments to courts

President Reagan's record on naming women and members of minorities to the federal courts ``reflects no serious commitment to a balanced judiciary,'' according to a recent report by the well-known, liberal public-interest group Common Cause. Not so, says the United States Department of Justice. Rather, it reflects a successful policy of ``appointing members from all groups'' while maintaining a firm commitment ``to finding the best nominee for each position.'' In his six years as President, Mr. Reagan has filled 41 percent of the nation's federal judgeships, and the federal bench is 91 percent male and 89 percent white, says the Common Cause report, entitled ``A Profile of Judicial Appointments in the Reagan Administration: a Breakdown by Gender and Minority Group.''

The President and Attorney General Edwin Meese III have pledged to appoint women and members of minorities to the courts. Of 267 Reagan appointees now serving on the federal appeals and district courts, 22 are women, 5 are blacks, and 12 are Hispanics. That record, says Michal Freedman, author of the Common Cause report, ``reflects no serious commitment to a balanced judiciary.''

Estelle Rogers, national director of the Federation of Women Lawyers, notes that the pool of qualified minorities and women in the legal profession is larger than at any point in history. ``The fact that they've appointed so few shows just how uncommitted they are,'' she says.

But Albert R. Brashear, a White House spokesman, says: ``I dispute their assertion. We are committed to appointing members from all groups. But we are just as firmly committed to finding the best nominee for each position.''

The situation ``has to be put in perspective,'' says Sheldon Goldman, a professor and legal scholar at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. ``The Reagan record for appointing women is the second best in history.''

Professor Goldman says that the number of women Reagan appointed in his first six years was not as large as the number former President Jimmy Carter named, but it was considerably better than the Ford and Nixon records. He adds that the appointment of Sandra Day O'Connor as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court ``has to weigh heavily.'' And he notes that Reagan's record of appointing Hispanics is ``the second best in history - second only to Carter.''

But he calls the record on appointment of blacks ``a step backward,'' adding that the Reagan administration has been hard pressed to find blacks content with the Reagan domestic policy.

The US Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing nominees for two federal appeals court and two district court slots. All four are white males. There are 17 vacancies on federal appeals courts and 50 on district courts.

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