Aug. 29, 2002 – The Bush White House will not renominate Federal Judge Thomas K. Moore for a second term on the District Court bench on St. Thomas, the Source has learned.
The front runner for the position is now Mark H. Bonner, who was an assistant U.S. attorney on St. Thomas for two years in the late 1980s. Bonner now works for the Treasury Department in Washington.
Moore's 10-year term as one of two District Court judges in the territory expired at the end of June. He has been told he is not going to be renominated. He is expected to stay on in the position until his successor is nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate.
A presidential nomination of Bonner would not sit well locally.
The Virgin Islands Bar Association Board of Governors went on record last Friday as being "adamantly opposed to the nomination of any attorney who is not a member of the local bar, who does not live in the Virgin Islands, and who has few, if any, substantial ties to the territory." That's a reference to Bonner.
What caused the President to turn against Moore, a man Bush's own father nominated to the federal bench in 1992, has been the subject of intense discussion in local legal circles in recent days.
Some Moore supporters pointed accusatory fingers at a leading Virgin Islands Republican, former V.I. senator Holland Redfield, now a vice president of Innovative Communication Corp., where his boss is communications magnate Jeffrey Prosser.
Prosser doesn't feel kindly toward Moore, this scenario goes, because Moore presided over Prosser's divorce trial and because Moore sent Ann Abramson, a Prosser friend and fellow Republican, to prison for perjury.
Redfield heads a small local organization sanctioned by the White House called the Bush Leadership Team. This entity is separate from the Virgin Islands chapter of the Republican National Committee, whose local president is St. Thomas Realtor George Blackhall.
Last week, Blackhall sent a letter to the White House reaffirming the territorial RNC's support for Moore as someone "in tune with the community with regards to the unique concerns of a territory."
But a few local Republicans said Redfield told them he had advised the White House to nominate any GOP lawyer except Moore.
Other local lawyers saw a different background for the White House decision not to renominate Moore. They saw a judge perhaps too eager to "make law in his own courtroom" when he should have confined himself to following precedent established by higher courts.
"Don't think this didn't draw the attention of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia," one local lawyer said last week, referring to the appellate court with authority over Moore's trial court.
Moore also used his 10 years as a judge to lobby, ever so discreetly, for federal judges in the Virgin Islands to be granted the same lifetime tenure given federal judges in Puerto Rico and on the mainland.
Whatever his relationships with other federal judges, Moore was popular locally. He was seen as sensitive to local issues, perhaps because of 30 years of living here.This was most apparent in his comments on a lawsuit filed in his court by self-styled St. Thomas philosopher Krim Ballentine. Moore publicly agreed with Ballentine that Virgin Islanders should have the right to vote for President and enjoy voting representation in Congress.
The U.S. government has asked Moore to dismiss the Ballentine case. Moore's decision, in light of his imminent departure from the federal bench, should attract considerable attention.
One local attorney summed up Moore's difficulties with the White House selection process this way: "Perhaps he wasn't Republican enough for them."
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