- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Senate Democrats backed off efforts yesterday to delay or block the federal judgeship nomination of Sen. Strom Thurmond's former chief of staff, and the matter could be resolved as early as today.

The Senate is expected to approve the nomination of District Judge Dennis Shedd to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, aides said. "It looks like the Shedd nomination will pass, and we have the votes to confirm it," a Senate Republican leadership aide said.

A Senate Democratic aide said Democrats did not take to the Senate floor yesterday to block or delay the nomination because "this guy was going to get through one way or another."

The vote will take place after the Senate votes on homeland security.

Judge Shedd's strongest supporter in the Senate 99-year-old Mr. Thurmond, South Carolina Republican is retiring. The 4th Circuit includes South Carolina, and Judge Shedd was chief of staff to Mr. Thurmond when Mr. Thurmond was Judiciary Committee chairman.

The Senate Judiciary Committee traditionally approves former staffers and nominees supported by former chairmen, but Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, took the Shedd nomination off the committee agenda in October. The move angered Republicans, who called it a direct slight to Mr. Thurmond.

During a floor tribute to Mr. Thurmond yesterday, Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, expressed his "sincere disappointment about the handling of Judge Shedd's nomination."

Yesterday, Mr. Leahy repeated his assertion that he had always intended to bring the nomination before the committee. He said he delayed it in October only because he knew it would spark contentious debate that would have held up action on 17 other nominations.

The committee approved the nomination last week.

Mr. Leahy said he and others are concerned that Judge Shedd "has a reputation for assisting the defense in civil cases and ruling for the defense in employment and civil rights cases."

Mr. Leahy went through a list of cases he said raised concerns among many about the judge's fairness.

"His record as a whole raises serious concerns about whether he should be elevated to a court that is only one step below the U.S. Supreme Court," Mr. Leahy said.

Republicans say the concerns are unfounded and that Judge Shedd is an excellent choice for the post.

"The charges against Judge Shedd that have been raised are shameful," ranking Judiciary Committee Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah said yesterday. "He's one of the finest people I've ever known."

Mr. Hatch said Judge Shedd's record has been "distorted and mischaracterized." He went on to defend the judge's actions in the cases Mr. Leahy mentioned.

Mr. Hatch also noted that Democrats continue to unfairly oppose nominees even after the last election, in which, he said, "voters sent us a clear message that we should end the obstruction and maltreatment of judges."

A Senate Republican aide said the "liberal faction in the Democratic caucus" opposing the Shedd nomination "caved" and did not try to delay or block him on the floor because they did not want to risk angering voters in Louisiana, where Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu is in a runoff election next month.

The aide said that if Democrats had defeated or delayed Judge Shedd, Republicans and the president would have loudly complained of unfair treatment and voters would have reacted.

"We've been successful in using this on the campaign trail, so they wanted to avoid that," the Republican aide said.

On Friday evening, the Senate confirmed another contentious nominee, Michael W. McConnell, to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Mr. McConnell is a law professor from Mr. Hatch's home state.

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