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Justice to appeal ruling on civil rights panel

From Terry Frieden
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hours after a federal court setback in a fight over the makeup of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the Justice Department on Monday announced it will appeal the ruling.

A ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington prevented the Bush administration's nominee to the commission from taking a seat on the eight-member body.

The judge said the law states all commissioners serve six-year terms on the commission.

The Justice Department had gone to court after a five-member commission majority led by Chairwoman Mary Frances Berry refused to seat Cleveland labor lawyer Peter Kirsanow, a prominent conservative African-American.

The administration claims the term of Commissioner Victoria Wilson, appointed to replace the late federal judge Leon Higginbotham, should have expired last November when Higginbotham's six-year term would have ended.

"We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling," said Barbara Comstock, the Justice Department's chief spokeswoman. "We are confident of our legal position and plan to immediately seek an appeal."

Comstock said the court's ruling "has the potential to allow political gamesmanship to occur on what should be a bipartisan, independent commission."




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