February 7, 2001
White makes right?
The Democrats are gearing up for a particularly nasty season of race-baiting, and one of their prime exhibits will be the alleged martyrdom of Missouri Judge Ronnie White. The general theme was established in newly elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe's vicious acceptance speech last Saturday.
He falsely accused the Republicans of bringing racial profiling to the Florida election polls, of intimidating and suppressing black voters and of using roadblocks to stop blacks from getting to the Florida voting booths. "I promise you this as well," he concluded with a provocative, race-baiting yelp: "We will transform the anger about Florida into energy about politics."
Only days earlier, leading congressional Democrats called on President Bush to re-nominate Judge White to the federal bench. Judge White was the liberal Clinton nominee to the federal bench whose nomination then-Sen. John Ashcroft successfully defeated in the prior Congress. The fact that Judge White happened to be black was used by the Democrats in Mr. Ashcroft's confirmation hearings to falsely argue that Mr. Ashcroft was racially prejudiced.
It is obvious that, by raising the cry for Judge White, the Democrats have started their campaign to turn him into a conspicuous victim of alleged Republican prejudice. Mr. Ashcroft, during his hearings, punctiliously avoided any personal comments about Judge White. He restricted his comments to a legal analysis of one of Judge White's rulings.
Curiously, the usually dogged national media also failed to report on any of the myriad disqualifying aspects of Judge White's record. But a review of his publicly documented record in Missouri discloses that he not only lacks a proper judicial temperament and had a lackluster legal career, but that he suffers from ethical shortcomings that ought to debar him from federal judicial office.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of Oct. 29, 1995 — the leading liberal Democratic newspaper in Missouri — Ronnie White had fathered a child out of wedlock. After initially accepting responsibility for the child, when he found out that he wasn't named as father on the birth certificate, he stopped all financial support. According to the Post-Dispatch, Judge White said: "It wasn't a real serious relationship." Only five years later, after a blood test proved he was the father, did he enter a consent decree requiring him to reimburse the state $2,000 for child support and agree to pay $375 a month in child support. At that time he had both a private law practice and was a state legislator.
The same St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on March 3 and 5, 1992, that as chairman of the Missouri State House Criminal and Civil Justice Committee, Judge White told his fellow legislators that he would not bring up an anti-abortion bill for a vote on a particular Monday. However, the paper reported, while Judge White acknowledged that he had made that assurance, he nonetheless called for a vote with key Republican legislators missing, the bill losing by a single vote. With a fellow legislator denouncing the conduct as "disgraceful and underhanded," the Post-Dispatch reported that "White said he changed his mind." A man who will blandly lie and deceive his fellow legislators would be a lifetime menace on the federal bench.
While his irresponsibility as a father and his deceitfulness as a legislator are compelling grounds for barring him from higher judicial office, his legal career — standing alone — is notably unimpressive. He failed a Missouri bar exam passed by 88 percent of those who sat for it. In nine years as a self-described criminal defense trial lawyer he only took 25 cases to completion of trial. In other words, he ran a plea-bargain mill.
As a liberal Democrat on the political fast-track, Judge White was generally supported in his public career by the liberal St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But even that paper, upon Judge White's being recommended for the federal bench, felt compelled to editorialize: "His outspokenness [from the state bench] can border on vituperation. In his original opinion [in a recent case], he got so carried away denouncing Judge Corrigan that he neglected to explain clearly the legal reasons the judge should have disqualified himself from a murder trial."
Most revealingly, in the questionnaire that Judge White submitted to the Missouri State Senate on his nomination to the state supreme court, he admitted that in his entire legal and judicial career, he had never written or edited a single book, article, report or other published material. Neither had he ever given a speech on constitutional or legal policy.
And when asked, in the questionnaire, to describe the 10 most significant cases he had handled, eight of them were criminal defenses of violent sexual assaults or other violent crimes. In his own words, he was proud of these cases because he got defendants off who had confessed to the crime, had numerous prior convictions, or in a charge of "various sexual assaults against a minor" the defendant "faced a substantial amount of jail time if convicted." It's no wonder then-Sen. Ashcroft called him pro-criminal.
Ronnie White is no martyr to prejudice. Mr. Ashcroft was right to oppose his nomination, and was typically gentle in not publicly cataloguing his woeful ethical and professional shortcomings.
Tony Blankley is a columnist for The Washington Times. His column appears on Wednesdays.