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Ford leads effort to oust Nixon Supreme Court picks

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  • Greg Cannon
    The Detroit News has several other old articles like this which you all might be interested in.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 27, 2006
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      The Detroit News has several other old articles like
      this which you all might be interested in.


      Nov. 5, 1974

      Ford leads effort to oust Nixon Supreme Court picks

      J.F. terHORST News National Columnist

      The Nixon presidency was about to be something less
      than pure joy for House Minority Leader Ford.
      Repeatedly he would be called upon to defend the
      president against attacks -- not only from Democrats,
      but also from liberal members for the House Republican
      minority -- and sometimes to defend the president in
      the face of severe criticism from Senate Republicans.

      On a number of occasions, Ford's loyalty to the Nixon
      presidency would seem to transcend all other

      Ford's efforts to help the embattled man in the White
      House were no more evident than in his highly
      publicized and ill-fated attempt to impeach Supreme
      Court Justice William O. Douglas.

      Although Ford's anti-Douglas move was undoubtedly
      motivated by his loyalty to Nixon, it was nevertheless
      ill-advised and certainly constitutes a dark blot on
      his congressional career.

      Ford's concern with the Supreme Court's behavior was
      intensified by the political controversy over
      Associate Justice Abe Fortas' relationship with
      financier Louis E. Wolfson, who had been indicted in
      1966 for selling unregistered securities. By May 1969,
      Fortas, steadfast in his denial of wrongdoing, had
      been driven from the Supreme Court by resignation
      because of the constant controversy over his
      relationship with Wolfson.

      President Nixon nominated Judge Clement F. Haynsworth
      Jr. to fill the Fortas vacancy.

      A conservative from South Carolina, Haynsworth had
      been appointed by the U.S. Appeals Court in 1957 by
      President Eisenhower, but critics complained that he
      had displayed ethical impropriety and poor judgment by
      participating in cases in which there was a direct --
      and sometimes financial -- conflict of interest.

      As a spectator on the other side of the Capitol,
      during the unsuccessful Haynsworth fight, Ford had
      sensed an impending blow to the Nixon presidency.
      While Senate debate raged, he spoke out as House
      Minority Leader, stating that ethical standards being
      applied to nominees to the Supreme Court should also
      apply to justices who were already on the bench.

      Then on Nov. 7, Ford announced that he had assigned a
      member of his staff to investigate charges that had
      been made against Justice Douglas, an apt target at
      that juncture in the Haynsworth debate.

      In mid-January 1970, President Nixon announced his
      second nominee, Court of Appeals Judge G. Harold
      Carswell of Florida. To many senators of both parties
      Carswell's nomination was as bad or worse than
      Haywnsorth's. Ten weeks after his nomination, Carswell
      was rejected 51 to 45 on a roll-call Senate vote.

      Meanwhile, Ford's investigation of Justice Douglas was
      continuing in the House. After the two Nixon
      administration defeats, Ford took to the floor to call
      for the impeachment of Douglas. By this time, he had
      fashioned a conservative coalition comprised of
      Southern Democrats led by Rep. Joe Waggoner of
      Louisiana and Republican anti-libertarians led by Rep.
      Louis C. Wyman of New Hampshire.

      Given the timing of Ford's move, it was seen in and
      out of Congress as an attempt by Pro-Nixon Republicans
      to mount a counterattack on the Senate for having
      turned down the two Southern conservatives the
      president had tried to place on the Supreme Court.

      In his impeachment address on the floor, Ford made
      five charges against Douglas. They included Douglas'
      relationship with Albert Parvin and the Parvin

      Ford contended that Douglas had been legal counsel to
      Parvin in violation of federal law when the foundation
      was established in 1960. Ford also charged that
      Douglas had given a legal opinion to the foundation
      regarding an investigation by the Internal Revenue

      Ford's additional charges related to Douglas' prolific
      writing records. A Douglas book, "Points of
      Rebellion," and articles by Douglas in "Evergreen
      Review" and Avant Garde" also were raised by Ford.

      The charges regarding the book argued with Douglas'
      main thesis, which Ford interpreted as advocating
      revolutionary overthrow of "the establishment" and
      which he said violated the standard of good behavior
      of a Supreme Court justice. The "Evergreen" article
      appeared in the April 1970 issue -- one that also
      contained nude photographs that Ford dubbed

      In his speech, Ford said that Douglas had given "a
      blunt message to the American people and their
      representatives in the Congressthat he does not give a
      tinker's damn what we think of him and his behavior on
      the bench."

      The "Avant Garde" charges were a bit more complex.
      Ralph Ginzburg, publisher of the magazine, was
      convicted of obscenity in connection with another of
      his publications, "Eros." In 1966, that conviction was
      upheld by the Supreme Court, with Douglas dissenting.
      With Douglas dissenting once again, the court awarded
      punitive damages to Sen. Barry Goldwater in a libel
      suit against another publication owned by Ginzburg.

      Because "Avant Garde" had paid Douglas $350 for an
      article on folksinging that appeared in a 1969 issue,
      and Douglas had not disqualified himself from the
      Ginzberg cases, Ford contended that Douglas'
      "declining to disqualify (himself) in this case is

      Ford demanded that the House create a special
      committee to investigate his charges against Douglas
      and see whether there was merit for an impeachment

      However, he was interrupted by a congressman from
      Indiana, Democrat Andrew Jacobs Jr., who happened to
      be a friend of Justice Douglas. Jacobs challenged the
      Minority Leader to introduce a resolution to impeach
      Douglas without delay.

      When Ford refused, Jacobs introduced an impeachment
      resolution, which thereby prevented the creation of
      the special committee Ford had sought.

      Had Ford succeeded with his plan, the Douglas matter
      would have gone to the House Rules Committee, which
      was chaired by a conservative Southern Democrat.
      Jacobs' resolution, on the other hand, was referred to
      the House Committee on the Judiciary and its chairman,
      Rep. Emanuel Celler of New York, was assumed to be
      less critical of Douglas' behavior.

      Under the parliamentary situation that prevailed,
      Jacobs' motion ad precedence had his proposal won out.

      The result was that the Judiciary Committee formed a
      special subcommittee to investigate Ford's accusations
      against Douglas.

      For five months, the special subcommittee labored and
      on Dec. 3, 1970, voted 3 to 1 that there were no
      grounds for the impeachment of Justice Douglas.

      On Dec. 16, the report of the subcommittee was
      released and endorsed by the Democratic majority,
      compromising Celler, Rep. Byron G Rogers of Colorado
      and Jack Brooks of Texas. The ranking Republican
      member, Edward Hutchinson of Michigan, dissented and
      the other Republican member, William McCulloch of
      Ohio, abstained.

      Did Ford indeed consider the activities outlined in
      his charges against Douglas grounds for impeachment
      from a seat on the highest court in the land? Ford
      told the House:

      "The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense
      is whatever the majority of the House of
      Representatives considers it to be at a given moment
      of history; conviction results from whatever offenses
      two-thirds of the other body (the Senate) considers to
      be sufficiently serious to require removal of the
      accused from office -- there are few principals among
      the handful of precedents.

      Fortunately, Ford's efforts to mount an impeachment
      campaign against Douglas were taken with a grain of
      salt in Congress and generally around the country.
      Almost everyone with any political perception
      concluded early on that it was little more than a
      White House inspired attempt to get back at the
      critics of the Southern conservative judges the
      president was trying to place on the Supreme Court.

      There was evidence that Ford had been tricked into
      mounting his impeachment battle against Douglas by
      Nixon men in the White House and the Justice
      Department -- notably Atty. Gen. John Mitchell, who
      seemed to know how to appeal to the dark side of
      Richard Nixon's political instincts.

      The Justice Department had readily provided Ford with
      information it deemed useful in his assault on
      Douglas. When that fact became known, it served to
      lower Ford's prestige in the House.

      The attempt to impeach Douglas was indicative of the
      kind of thinking that was beginning to develop in the
      Nixon white House -- a White House dominated by the
      conspiratorial style of H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman
      and, of course, Mitchell at the Justice Department.
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