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President Bush has nominated two lawyers to federal appellate court posts: Sandra Ikuta, general counsel for California’s $4.1 billion Resources Agency, and Michael B. Wallace, a partner in Phelps Dunbar’s Jackson, Miss., office. Ikuta, 51, was nominated to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nation’s largest appellate court, while Wallace was tapped for the 5th Circuit. Ikuta joins two other 9th Circuit nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, including William Myers III of Idaho, whose outspoken criticism of environmental regulation and work as a lobbyist for cattle and mining interests has stalled his nomination for two years. Randy Smith, nominated in December to the 9th Circuit, has not had a Senate hearing yet. Ikuta served as co-chairwoman of O’Melveny & Myers’ environmental practice group in Los Angeles until March 2004, when she joined the Resources Agency. The agency oversees 24 departments, commissions and boards responsible for managing the state’s nature resources, land, water, wildlife and parks. Before joining O’Melveny, Ikuta clerked for retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor from 1989 to 1990, and Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit from 1988 to 1989. “She’ll be great” as a circuit judge, said Kozinski. “She’s very thoughtful and careful. We get a lot of environmental cases. It would be good to have someone with expertise in the area,” he said. President Ronald Reagan appointed Wallace director of Legal Services Corp. in 1984. During the 1980s, Wallace served as counsel to Trent Lott while he was Republican whip in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1999, Wallace worked as special impeachment counsel to then Senate Majority Leader Lott, R-Miss., during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering was Bush’s first pick, but Pickering retired in December. That was a year after Bush placed him on the court through a controversial recess appointment when the Senate failed to break the stalemate over his nomination. When seven Republicans and seven Democrats in the Senate agreed in May 2005 to a compromise that averted the “nuclear option” and ended the threatened filibuster of judicial nominees, they agreed to a full vote on three blocked nominees. But others, such as Myers, Henry Saad for the 6th Circuit and Terrence Boyle for the 4th Circuit, were left with no commitments and their fates wait in limbo. Ikuta received a law degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. Wallace received his law degree from the University of Virginia. Ikuta would replace Judge James Browning, who is the only Kennedy appointee still serving on the court. Browning is now a senior judge.

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