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Senate panel to reopen Kozinski hearing

By CHRIS CHRYSTAL

WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee, prodded by some Senate Democrats who are uneasy about the nomination of Alex Kozinski to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, will reopen his confirmation hearing Friday.

The panel unanimously approved the nomination of Kozinski, 35, to the nation's second highest court Sept. 12. But allegations surfacing since the vote led to claims he is unqualified because of a harsh temperament, questionable decisions and misleading testimony before the Judiciary Committee.

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The panel will hear from witnesses and review allegations about Kozinski in an effort to resolve the questions, a committee spokesman said late Wednesday. Rehearings after a vote occur infrequently.

Kozinski, a Romanian immigrant who settled in California and got on the Reagan bandwagon, has been chief judge of the U.S. Claims Court since 1982.

In 1981-1982 he headed the Office of Special Counsel to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which defends government whistleblowers against retaliation for exposing wrongdoing and hears appeals of disciplinary actions.

The Government Accountability Project, an advocate group, alleged Kozinski worked against whistleblowers instead of supporting them.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who is on the Government Affairs Committee that deals with whistleblowers, and three other Democrats delayed the Senate vote more than a week to review allegation.

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Levin notified Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Strom Thurmond in a confidential memo Oct. 8 that it appeared Kozinski lacked the 'judicial temperament necessary for, and expected of, a federal appeals court.'

In a 'dear colleague' letter to other senators late Wednesday, Levin said Kozinski 'acted intemperately, unfairly, erratically, and with a lack of compassion' in both his official positions.

Levin said Kozinski misled senators when he testified at his confirmation hearing that he had 'an excellent relation with his staff' at the OSC.

Affidavits of former employes alleged morale declined to an all-time low and resignations were higher than ever under Kozinski. OSC employes said Kozinski was 'harsh, cruel, demeaning, sadistic, disingenuous and without compassion,' Levin's letter said.

The accounts of his actions at OSC 'portray an unusual degree of hostility displayed by Judge Kozinski and at times an almost complete disregard for the consequences of the actions upon individuals,' Levin said.

The 9th circuit, based in San Francisco, has the heaviest caseload of the nation's federal appellate courts and receives cases from nine western states, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii. Its 28 judges serve for life.

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