- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

President Bush yesterday announced his first batch of judicial nominees, saying he would trust in the "good faith" of the Senate to swiftly confirm them and drawing a confident prediction from a top Democrat that all will pass muster.
"I now submit these nominations in good faith, trusting that good faith will also be extended by the United States Senate," Mr. Bush said in an East Room ceremony, flanked by his 11 nominees, more than half of whom are women or racial minorities.
"I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past to provide a fair hearing and a prompt vote to every nominee," he said.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who attended yesterdays ceremony, said: "Had I not been encouraged, I would not have been here today."
"I know them well enough that I would assume theyll go through all right," he said.
Most of the nominees which include two blacks, three women and a Hispanic have conservative ties and backgrounds, but the names of three other candidates for federal judicial positions were trimmed from the list before yesterdays event.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said he did not know when those more-contentious candidates would be nominated.
During yesterdays brief White House event, Mr. Bush, in not-so-veiled language intended to put the Senate on the spot, said the confirmation process has became a partisan battleground that has "little to do with the merits of the person sitting before the committee."
"I urge senators of both parties to rise above the bitterness of the past to provide a fair hearing and a prompt vote to every nominee. That should be the case for no matter who lives in this house and no matter who controls the Senate.
"I ask for the return of civility and dignity to the confirmation process. And with this distinguished group of nominees awaiting confirmation, there is no better opportunity than right now," Mr. Bush said.
The Republican-controlled Senate used its "advice and consent" role of reviewing all federal judicial appointments to reject many of President Clintons nominees, often by simply not bringing the nomination to a vote.
In his first two years in office — the only time when Democrats controlled the Senate — Mr. Clinton pushed through 129 judges, an average of 65 each year. After Republicans took over, he won confirmation of 245 just 41 per year.
The same was true, however, when Democrats controlled the body and the president was Mr. Bushs father. In fact, one of the new presidents nominees — U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle — was nominated by the first President Bush but never voted on in the Senate.
Mr. Leahy said that while partisan rancor has gridlocked nominations for years, it need not be so.
"It becomes polarized only if we try to lurch the federal judiciary one way or the other," he said.
But he also said that before he will move forward on the nominations, he will ask the American Bar Association to review them.
"We will submit to the ABA, so there could be peer review," Mr. Leahy said.
That move may rankle some Republicans and Mr. Bush, who in March ended the ABAs 54-year advisory role in the process of choosing Supreme Court and other federal judges, in part because of associations liberal political activism.
Mr. Fleischer said the more than 100 vacancies represent 17 percent of all positions on the federal bench.
All 11 nominees — of whom seven are sitting judges, three practicing lawyers and one a law professor — attended yesterdays White House ceremony, but none spoke to reporters.
Mr. Bush said: "As a group, they command broad, bipartisan support among those who know them and who have served with them. I submit their names to the Senate with full confidence that they will satisfy any test of judicial merit."
Also attending the event were Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General John Ashcroft, Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican, and Virginia senators George F. Allen and John W. Warner.
Mr. Allen and Mr. Warner, both Republican, said they support the nomination of Roger L. Gregory, first named to the federal court by Mr. Clinton in a controversial "recess" appointment while the Senate was out of session. Judge Gregory became the first black judge in the 4th Circuit.
Mr. Fleischer said it is "an unprecedented act for a president to renominate a judicial choice to the circuit court whose original nomination was made by a president of the other party. It has never happened before in the history of our country."
But there were signs yesterday that Democrats will seek to oppose the nomination of Judge Boyle, a former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican.
"Until we find some constructive process that allows for balance, then I would not support any nominee, including Judge Boyle," said Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat.
Mr. Bush defended his nominees, saying, "Every judge I appoint will be a person who clearly understands the role of a judge is to interpret the law, not to legislate from the bench. And all will be exceptional for their humanity and their integrity."


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