- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - The chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington on Monday said senators are “injuring the federal judiciary” by holding up nominations and making a political issue out of the clients represented by lawyers up for federal positions.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said he and his judicial colleagues were “virtually unanimous in our revulsion and disgust” that debate over recent Justice Department nominees centered on the clients they have represented.

“The process has gone seriously awry when we go down that path,” Lamberth said during a speech before his fellow federal judges and Attorney General Eric Holder.

“The process for picking federal judges is totally broken and it badly needs to be fixed,” Lamberth said. He said both political parties are to blame for the unfilled seats across the country.

“The pay-backs and the bickering have been thoroughly bipartisan,” Lamberth said. “I say to both Republicans and Democrats: You are injuring our federal judiciary.”

Lamberth was a Republican appointee, nominated in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, but he criticized GOP opposition to President Barack Obama’s No. 2 and 3 positions at the Justice Department. The Senate overcame those objections to confirm the nominations of David Ogden for deputy attorney general and Thomas Perelli for associate attorney general.

Twenty-six Republicans and one Democrat opposed Ogden, who was criticized for representing defendants in pornography cases. Twenty Republicans voted against Perelli, a former Lamberth clerk who represented Terri Schiavo’s husband in his fight to take his severely brain damaged wife off life support. Schiavo’s case was a major issue for conservatives who argued she should be kept alive even in a vegetative state.

Lamberth said his own nomination was held up for a six-month partisan fight, but that pales in comparison to the more recent nominations that have routinely been delayed for several years.

Lamberth argued that the Senate confirmation process had grown so demeaning that at least one judicial nominee he knows asked the president not to be nominated a second time. He said the process threatens to drive away the best and brightest from accepting positions on the federal bench.

He said he disagrees with Obama’s opposition when he was a senator to President George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominations and candidate Obama’s stated criteria for judicial nominees. But he said it’s time for both parties in Congress to come together with Obama and agree to “stop this war” over judicial nominees.

Lamberth was speaking at the federal courthouse’s Ceremonial Courtroom for the first annual Judge Thomas A. Flannery Lecture Series, named after the late judge and former U.S. attorney who served 30 years at the federal courthouse and died a year and a half ago.

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