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Republican efforts to fast-track Peter Keisler’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit are generating election-season squabbling in the Senate. Last week all eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asking to postpone a proposed hearing, slated for this week, on Keisler’s nomination. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), speaking on conservative talk radio on July 27, promised Keisler a hearing before the August recess, with the goal of winning confirmation from the full Senate during its four-week session in September. Keisler, currently assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, was nominated June 29. But Democrats say the nomination is moving too fast for a post on the country’s second-highest court, citing the fact that the American Bar Association has yet to complete its review of Keisler. Additionally, they say, more time is needed to pick through files of Keisler’s from his time in the Reagan White House. Those files are stored at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. Keisler reportedly turned down the opportunity to succeed Robert McCallum as associate attorney general to seek an appellate post. And unless his old Reagan-era files turn up some surprises, the former Sidley Austin partner looks to be a difficult target for Democrats. As a co-founder of the Federalist Society and a former clerk to Judge Robert Bork and Justice Anthony Kennedy, Keisler has impeccable conservative credentials. But at the Civil Division, he seems to have stayed far enough away from the administration’s most controversial terror policies to avoid widespread opposition. Rather than attacking Keisler head-on, Democrats are arguing for holding a separate hearing on the question of whether an 11th judge on the D.C. Circuit is even needed. To buttress their points, they cite statements by Republican Judiciary Committee members Kyl, Chuck Grassley (Iowa), and Jeff Sessions (Ala.) from 1997 calling the 11th seat wasteful. They also reference data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts showing that the circuit’s caseload, as measured by written decisions per active judge, has declined 17 percent since that time.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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