The continuing battle between liberal and conservative judges on a key federal appeals court escalated yesterday, as a senior member of the court publicly defended the chief judge against charges that he rigged a high-profile affirmative action case.
In the statement, Judge Damon J. Keith, who has served on the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit since 1977 and has semi-retired senior status, denounced accusations against 6th Circuit Chief Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. made in a memo by Judge Alice M. Batchelder that became public last week. Batchelder’s charges were “totally unjustified and unwarranted,” Keith wrote.
Keith and Martin were appointed to the 6th Circuit by President Jimmy Carter. Batchelder is an appointee of President George H.W. Bush. Keith’s statement was co-signed by four of the other 21 senior and active judges on the court: Senior Judge Gilbert S. Merritt and Judges Martha Craig Daughtrey, R. Guy Cole Jr. and Eric L. Clay. All are appointees of Democratic presidents.
Such a sharp falling-out along partisan lines would be extraordinary at most federal appeals courts, where judges who strongly disagree on the issues seek to maintain a modicum of decorum. But even before the affirmative action dispute erupted last year, open feuding between Republican and Democratic appointees had become standard procedure at the 6th Circuit.