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Finding a nominee who is able and willing to head the tattered Justice Department after Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ ignominious exit could be tricky, but plenty of potential candidates are being floated. Add William “Billy” Wilkins to the mix. After turning 65, Wilkins stepped down as chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in July and is now a senior judge. Wilkins wouldn’t comment last week on whether he wants the top job at Justice, but he has bona fide conservative credentials and some supporters in the Senate. He also is much less controversial than some other potential nominees, including former Solicitor General Theodore Olson and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “I don’t know how much consideration is being given to it,” Wilkins says about his possible nomination. “You probably know more than I do at this point.” President Ronald Reagan nominated Wilkins to the U.S. District Court for South Carolina in 1981 and to the 4th Circuit in 1986. Wilkins also chaired the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 1985 to 1994. Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, says Wilkins is a “dark horse” but an interesting alternative. “He’s not beholden in any way to this administration,” Tobias says. “He’s a candidate who could be taken seriously.”
Brendan Smith can be contacted at [email protected].

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