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The ABA house of delegates boasted an impressive guest list for its sessions in Chicago during the 2005 annual meeting.

Early on, the House heard from Attorney General Alberto R. Gon­zales technically not a guest, since the attorney general is automatically a House member under the ABA Constitution.

Gonzales spoke positively about the role of the ABA Standing Com­mittee on Federal Judiciary in reviewing nominees to the federal bench.

“Your contributions to a well qualified judiciary and especially as we work to confirm a new associate justice of the Supreme Court have had traditional importance in the process of placing qualified jurists on the federal bench,” Gonzales said.

In 2001, the administration ended a long standing practice of sending the ABA names of prospective nominees to the federal bench for evaluation prior to announcing them. Now the association evaluates nominees after the president announces them.

The administration has welcomed several recent ABA ratings of Bush nominees, however, including John G. Roberts Jr., the president’s selection for chief justice. The ABA committee has given Roberts its highest rating of “well qualified.”

The following day, the House broke from normal deliberations to hear more on issues relating to the judiciary from a panel composed of Justice Stephen G. Breyer; Sen. Lindsey Graham, R S.C.; former Solicitor General Theodore Olson; and moderator Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor.

Breyer and Graham both expressed concern that the judiciary is becoming a hot button political issue. The more that happens, Graham said, “the independence issue becomes a real problem. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a real assault on lifetime tenure.”

Breyer acknowledged that some court decisions “create strong feelings in the country.” But the greater concern, he said, is a “lack of support for the institution.”

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