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The vacancy saga of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit wears on. Effective immediately, Judge H. Emory Widener Jr., a 35-year veteran of the court, is taking senior status, says court clerk Patricia Connor The judge announced his intentions July 17 in a letter to President George W. Bush. That same day, the White House tapped Chief Judge Robert Conrad Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina to fill a vacancy created in the 4th Circuit in 1994. Widener’s departure strikes a rare ideological balance on the court, which has long been known as among the most conservative in the nation. The judge might have grown tired of waiting. It’s been six years since Widener announced he would step down once his successor was confirmed. The administration has been unable to plug four vacancies on the 15-member bench. (Widener’s decision, first reported in Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice’s Southern Appellate blog, creates an unprecedented fifth vacancy.) The Senate rebuffed Bush’s top two choices for the bench, Defense Department general counsel William Haynes II and U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle of the Eastern District of North Carolina. Conrad is Bush’s first 4th Circuit nominee in his second term.
Joe Palazzolo can be contacted at [email protected].

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