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Senate Debating Judge Seen As Soft

February 11, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A conservative Republican senator, asserting that Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson of Philadelphia has been too soft on criminals, sought Tuesday to derail her nomination to the federal bench.

Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., said in a Senate speech that the judge was not up to the ``level of quality we must expect from individuals who are appointed to life for the federal bench.″

But Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., a chief backer of Ms. Massiah-Jackson, said senators were rushing to judgment based on an incomplete record provided by prosecutors and other critics of the nominee, who is a Democrat.

If confirmed, she would be the first black woman to sit on the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

Her critics have cited two instances in which she used profanity from the bench and several other cases in which she threw out key evidence, dismissed criminal charges or took actions they considered unfair to prosecutors.

New cases were brought forth in recent weeks, after the Senate Judiciary Committee had already forwarded her nomination to the full Senate. Her backers say fairness dictates that she be given a chance to respond to the new material.

There ``has to be a review to take a closer look at Judge Massiah-Jackson’s qualifications,″ Specter said on the Senate floor.

No vote was held Tuesday, and the Senate may resume debate Wednesday. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he would favor further committee review.

All 15 members of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary rated Ms. Massiah-Jackson qualified or well-qualified.

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