Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D Calif.), a pivotal member of the
Senate Judiciary Committee, disclosed Tuesday that she would
vote against President Bush's choice of William G. Myers III
for a seat on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals a move
likely to trigger a filibuster of the nomination. Howard Gantman,
an aide to Feinstein, said the senator reached her decision
after thoroughly reviewing Myers' record as a lawyer representing
mining and cattle interests. Environmental organizations have
led opposition to Myers, saying his record includes numerous
attacks on federal environmental laws.
The 9th Circuit is the nation's largest federal appeals
court and hears cases from California and eight other Western
states. Because of the territory it covers, the court considers
a disproportionate number of the country's most important
Gantman said Feinstein would provide a full statement of
her reasons for opposing Myers when the committee next met
to consider the nomination, probably later this month.
Leaders of organizations opposing Myers and Senate vote
counters said Feinstein's decision made it likely that Myers
would clear the Judiciary Committee on a straight party line
vote with 10 Republicans voting yes and nine Democrats voting
"Up until now, the record has been that if all the
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee vote no on a nominee,
there has been a filibuster, if necessary," said Glenn
Sugameli, senior legislative counsel for Earth Justice, one
of the environmental groups opposing Myers' nomination.
So far, the Senate has confirmed 171 of Bush's judicial
nominees. Senate Democrats have mounted successful filibusters
to block confirmation of six nominees. In two of those instances,
Bush granted recess appointments to the nominees, which allow
them to serve as judges for the duration of the current congressional
session. By contrast, nominees confirmed by the Senate gain
"I am very glad to see that Sen. Feinstein is helping
to protect the environment and the rights of Indian tribes
and others who depend on a fair hearing in the 9th Circuit,"
The nominee did not comment Tuesday.
Justice Department spokesman John Nowacki, who has been
speaking on Myers' behalf, said, "With his exemplary
record in public service and as an attorney in private practice,
Bill Myers would make an excellent addition to the 9th Circuit."
In addition to his private law practice, Myers, 48, worked
for former Sen. Alan Simpson (R Wyo.) and served as the Interior
Department's top lawyer during the first two years of the
current administration. He practices law in Idaho, one of
the states covered by the 9th Circuit.
At a Judiciary Committee hearing Feb. 5, Feinstein and five
other Democrats questioned Myers extensively. Sen. Patrick
Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said
he feared that the nominee would be "an anti environmental
activist on the bench."
To support that charge, Myers' opponents have pointed to
several of his statements,
In 1996, he wrote an article that described the 1995 California
Desert Protection Act as an "example of legislative hubris."
Feinstein, a key architect of the measure, said at the hearing
that she was particularly disturbed by that statement.
Myers conceded that his remark "probably had been a
poor choice of words."
In addition to the remarks about the desert protection law,
opponents of the nomination have pointed to Myers' argument
in one Supreme Court case that Congress does not have the
power to protect wetlands, and to an article he wrote comparing
federal land management policies to "the tyrannical actions
of King George in levying taxes" on the American colonies.
Sugameli and Doug Kendall, an attorney for the environmental
group Community Rights Counsel, said the vote on Myers would
mark the first time in this administration that a nominee's
stance on environmental matters had been the central issue
in a confirmation battle.
"This vote is an important milestone in the effort
to raise awareness of the environmental stakes in judicial
nominations," Kendall said.
Virtually every major environmental organization has announced
opposition to Myers. A month ago, the National Wildlife Federation,
the nation's largest member supported conservation education
and advocacy group, stated its opposition, marking the first
time in its 68 year history it had opposed a judicial nominee.
Myers' nomination presents "an exceptional case,"
the organization said in a statement. "Mr. Myers has
so firmly established a public record of open hostility to
environmental protections as to undermine any contention that
he could bring an impartial perspective to the issues of wildlife
and natural resource conservation."
"Mr. Myers' record when he served as the solicitor
of the Department of the Interior makes plain that he brought
with him and applied the same hostility and contempt for environmental
protection and conservation that he had aggressively displayed
earlier in his career as a lawyer and lobbyist for the livestock
grazing and mining industries," the federation said.
Earlier this month, The Times reported that, while he was
the Interior Department's top lawyer, Myers had encouraged
two Northern California congressmen to sponsor legislation
that would have given a private firm eight acres of valuable
federal land in Yuba County.
After The Times made inquiries about the legislation, the
Interior Department withdrew its support of the bill.