[JURIST] Reaction to President Bush's nomination of White House Counsel, and former Texas Supreme Court Judge, Alberto Gonzales to succeed John Ashcroft as US Attorney General has been mixed, with most of the criticism citing Gonzales' role in setting administration policy on detaining and questioning people captured in the fight against terrorism. Gonzales was the author of a controversial January 2002 memorandum [PDF] that concluded that the war on terror rendered the Geneva Conventions "obsolete." Senator Patrick Leahy, senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be considering Gonzales' nomination, said in a statement Wednesday that the Judiciary Committee would review issues surrounding the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects as part of Gonzales' confirmation hearings. Amnesty International USA insisted that it took no position on individual nominees, but said that the opinions produced by Mr. Alberto Gonzales on issues of humanitarian law during his tenure as White House Counsel, and the policy decisions that resulted from them, deserve "close and careful scrutiny". New York-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch was more direct, calling Gonzales a "a poor choice for the top law enforcement post in the United States", noting that "As White House counsel, Gonzales was the architect of the Bush administrations policy of placing detainees captured in the fight against terrorism beyond the protection of any law. That policy opened the door to brutality against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay and unfair legal proceedings against them." Alliance for Justice similarly observed that Gonzales "provided the Bush administration with the legal architecture to sidestep and ignore the rule of law that, as attorney general, he will be mandated to enforce." The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York has voiced like concerns. From a different perspective, the American Life League has called Gonzales "wrong" for Attorney General. In a statement Thursday, president Judie Brown said "President Bush appears to be doing all that he can to downright ignore pro-life principles. There can be no other explanation for his recommendation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general. Gonzales has a record, and that record is crystal clear. As a Texas Supreme Court justice, Gonzales' rulings implied he does not view abortion as a heinous crime. Choosing not to rule against abortion, in any situation, is the epitome of denying justice for an entire segment of the American population -- preborn babies in the womb."
On the other side, Hispanic groups have praised the nomination of Gonzales, who would be the first Hispanic to serve as US Attorney General. The Latino Coalition has praising the nomination [PDF] saying that Gonzales "has been an instrumental part of the legal efforts to boost the war on terrorism and keep America safe and secure, while upholding the highest standards in government ethics." Gonzales also has strong support on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, current Committee Chairman, said yesterday that "Judge Gonzales' record in Texas and the White House are praise-worthy. His legal, military, government and professional experience has proven to be a great asset to our country during very trying times. I am confident that he will be promptly confirmed and make a superb Attorney General."
The New York Times has more on the reaction to Gonzales' nomination. JURIST's Paper Chase has background on Gonzales' nomination here and here.