NAACP plans fight with ABA over delay on Williams

May 24, 1994|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

The national NAACP and a minority lawyers' group are gearing up for a battle with the American Bar Association over the nomination of Alexander Williams Jr. for a seat on Maryland's federal bench.

The nomination of Mr. Williams, the state's attorney for Prince George's County, slipped into limbo after an ABA review committee raised doubts about his qualifications. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is preparing for a public confrontation with the ABA unless the 9-month-old nomination of Mr. Williams moves forward soon, said Leroy W. Warren Jr., chairman of the organization's Crime and Criminal Justice Committee.

Mr. Warren would not reveal specific plans, which he said were discussed at a NAACP board of directors meeting over the weekend in Columbia, S.C.

The National Bar Association, an organization of minority lawyers with 16,000 members, also is preparing to challenge the ABA.

The ABA's standing committee on federal judiciary reviews all nominees before forwarding a rating of highly qualified, qualified or unqualified to the U.S. Senate.

The group has yet to rate Mr. Williams, although a source knowledgeable about the process says its work has been done for weeks and its conclusions have been communicated to the Justice Department and the White House.

Mr. Williams has remained unconfirmed longer than any federal bench nominee named by the Clinton administration.

In its review, the ABA committee expressed doubts that Mr. Williams' background was sufficient, according to a source familiar with the review process.

The delay has left his supporters alleging that Mr. Williams is being treated unfairly because he is black and lacks ties to a "blue-chip" law firm. Mr. Williams has been a local litigator, public defender and county prosecutor.

"The ABA has too much authority in these matters," said Paulette Brown, president of the NBA. "Alex Williams is one of our absolute best. We will do whatever it is we can to ensure he gets his proper place on the bench."

Supporters of Mr. Williams -- a lawyer of 21 years who is completing his second term as Prince George's County state's attorney -- suggest that the committee is stalling to avert a political backlash if he is rated "unqualified."

"It would create a firestorm, so they delay things and hope he'll go away," said Mr. Warren. "At some point, we have to take the ABA on. They think time is on their side. We think just the opposite."

Representatives from a number of minority and legal organizations say they have written letters and made phone calls to the Clinton administration and the ABA conveying their concerns.

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