Bush Rejects Bi-partisan Senate Effort in Order to Reignite Judicial Nomination Wars

4th Circuit nominee was omitted from list jointly provided by Virginia Senators


Glenn Sugameli, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500

Yesterday, President Bush rejected a bipartisan list of five names that Virginia Senators Jim Webb (D) and John Warner (R) recommended for two 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies from Virginia. Instead, he nominated E. Duncan Getchell, Jr., who was one of many lawyers whom the Senators jointly interviewed and omitted from their list of five prospective nominees.

“There no longer can be any doubt that President Bush wants to pick unnecessary fights on judicial nominations, rather than to fill vacancies and confirm judges,” said Glenn Sugameli, Senior Legislative Counsel with Earthjustice. “Unfortunately, President Bush continues to reject advice from Republican and Democratic Senators on mainstream, confirmable nominees, and prefers to appeal to his right-wing base by throwing gasoline on the simmering embers of the judicial nomination wars.”

Sen. Warner stated that “I steadfastly remain committed to the recommendations stated in my joint letter with Senator Webb to the president, dated June 12, 2007, and I have so advised in a respectful, consistent manner in my consultations with the White House senior staff.”  Sen. Webb said in a statement, “Today, despite our good faith, bipartisan effort to accommodate the President, the recommendations that Senator Warner and I made have been ignored. The White House talks about the spirit of bipartisanship, lamenting congressional obstructionism. The White House cannot expect to complain about the confirmation of federal judges when they proceed to act in this manner.”

“Every Senator who has called for more bipartisanship on judicial nominations should be asked about President Bush’s rejection of a careful, widely-praised bipartisan Senate effort to fill an appeals court vacancy,” Sugameli said. “President Bush has refused to nominate anyone to appellate court seats in other circuits despite recommendations from Republican Senators, including Arlen Specter (R-PA) and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). He has repeatedly ignored the Senate’s constitutional advise and consent role in nominating federal judges, resulting in appeals court vacancies in appeals court seats based in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia that have gone unfilled for years.”

Sugameli added that, “A Maryland-based 4th Circuit seat has remained unfilled for almost seven years because Claude Allen, the only nominee President Bush submitted, did not live in the state (he later pled guilty to misdemeanor theft). When President Bush has submitted nominees, they have all too often ‘seemed deliberately provocative,’ as a Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial described Jim Haynes, a prior nominee for a 4th Circuit Virginia-based seat who withdrew because of bipartisan Senate opposition.”

Yesterday, President Bush also nominated Steve A. Matthews for a South Carolina-based 4th Circuit seat.  Matthews serves as a Member and the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which nominated Rush Limbaugh for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Recently, President Bush withdrew a prospective nominee for a New Jersey-based Third Circuit seat who had been approved by both home-state senators. He gave the senators no input on his actual nominee, and only informed them after the selection was made.

“There really is a better way,” Sugameli said. “When the Bush administration has honored the Senate’s constitutional ‘advise and consent’ role, more than 250 of his judicial nominees have been confirmed.”  

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