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President George W. Bush’s decision last week to bypass five recommendations from Virginia Sens. John Warner (R) and Jim Webb Jr. (D) and nominate Duncan Getchell Jr. to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is already stirring criticism among advocacy groups. “Senators Warner and Webb got together in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation, but President Bush has shown that he is not concerned with filling vacancies in the federal court but is far more interested in .�.�. trying to put ideologues on the federal bench,” says Judith Schaeffer, legal director of People For the American Way. A member of the Federalist Society, Getchell chairs the appellate group of McGuireWoods in Richmond. His clients include Richmond’s Democratic mayor, L. Douglas Wilder, and Virginia’s Republican Party. Although Getchell’s name was not on Warner’s list this year, he was on the senator’s list of recommendations last year. In April, the Virginia State Bar’s Judicial Nominations Committee rated him as “highly qualified.” Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell publicly endorsed Getchell last week, and McGuireWoods Chairman Richard Cullen calls Getchell “a great lawyer and Virginian.” Bush last week also nominated Steve Matthews, managing director of Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd in Columbia, S.C., to a spot on the 4th Circuit, which currently has five vacancies. “From what we know, these nominations are part and parcel of President Bush’s efforts to pack the court,” says Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice. “With Getchell, he’s clearly thumbing his nose at the Senate.”
Osita Iroegbu can be contacted at [email protected].

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