- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Two judicial nominees awaiting Senate confirmation are the latest in the common practice of senators attempting to place friends and relatives in lifetime jobs with the federal judiciary.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are poised to vote tomorrow against the nomination of Michigan Judge Henry W. Saad to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The reason: Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, wants that seat filled by Judge Helene White, who is married to Mr. Levin’s first cousin.

And on the other side of the aisle, Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, has made no secret of his tireless efforts during the past two years to get his close friend of 40 years, federal Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr., elevated to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” said Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, an ardent critic of the judicial-nomination process. “Unfortunately, not enough people know what’s going on, so it just continues.”

Democratic and Republican aides on the Senate Judiciary Committee privately shared more than a dozen recent examples of senators’ friends and relatives being confirmed or pushed for seats on the federal bench.

Last year, for example, senators unanimously confirmed Kentucky lawyer David Bunning — 35-year-old son of Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican — to become a U.S. District Court judge for Kentucky’s Eastern District. That vote came after the American Bar Association returned a rare “not qualified” evaluation of him. A second review was conducted later by an ABA investigator who determined him to be qualified.

Also confirmed unanimously by the Senate last year was Terrance F. McVerry as U.S. district judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Judge McVerry’s wife, Judith, served as treasurer to the 2000 Senate campaign of Sen. Rick Santorum. Mr. Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, holds the party’s third-highest leadership post in the Senate.

Mr. Lott said there was nothing “unseemly” about efforts to elevate longtime friends, such as Judge Pickering.

“I’ll tell you what’s unseemly,” he said. “It’s unseemly for Democrats to refuse to give him a final vote up or down on the Senate floor. That’s unseemly.”

Judge Pickering was approved by the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote earlier this month, but Democrats are threatening to filibuster him on the Senate floor.

Mr. Lott made no apologies for promoting his friend and said his long relationship with Judge Pickering should help him get confirmed. “It should make a difference,” Mr. Lott said. “If those who know him best can’t make this happen, then what good is the system?”

Mr. Levin rebuffed numerous attempts in the Capitol corridors to answer questions about his unwavering support for his cousin’s wife. His office said Mr. Levin’s cousin did not marry Judge White until two years after she was nominated.

Democrats on the committee say they oppose Mr. Bush’s nomination of Judge Saad and three other nominees because Mr. Levin hasn’t given approval. Mr. Levin has said publicly he wants to arrange a deal that would put Judge White and another Clinton nominee on the 6th Circuit bench.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican, got so frustrated over Mr. Levin’s objections to the four Michigan nominees that he co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban filibusters against judicial nominees.

“When he’s using these extraordinary measures to do something and he’s working for something that is blatantly a conflict of interest, I’m left scratching my head,” Mr. Rogers said. “It’s outrageous.”

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