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E. Duncan Getchell Jr., a nominee for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has been accused of spreading defamatory statements about another Virginia lawyer in order to shore up his foundering nomination and shift blame for an $8 million court error. Richmond, Va. attorney Christopher C. Spencer made the allegations in a defamation suit filed in Richmond Circuit Court Nov. 14. The original dispute arose over who had responsibility for missing the deadline to file trial transcripts in an $8 million personal injury appeal, Getchell and his prominent Richmond law firm, McGuireWoods, or Spencer. The insurer who had to pay when the appeal was tossed out sued Spencer, but not Getchell, whose signature is on the initial 2004 notice of appeal in Grigg v. Wintergreen Partners, Inc., 03-9452, in Albemarle County Circuit Court. Spencer accused Getchell and another McGuireWoods partner, William R. Allcott, of repeating the defamatory statements in news articles, including the National Law Journal and Virginian-Pilot in October. The suit alleges that Getchell and Allcott, fearing negative publicity, conspired to shift blame for the 2004 legal error to Spencer “in hope of salvaging a troubled nomination to the federal bench�” Spencer’s lawyer Andrew M. White, of White O’Connor Curry in Los Angeles, declined to comment on the case. Getchell did not return a message left seeking comment and a firm spokesman was not available to respond. “Getchell’s nomination has been troubled since the day it was made,” said Carl Tobias, University of Richmond School of Law professor who follows the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The rest of this is almost irrelevant,” he said. Getchell’s troubles relate more to the objection of Virginia Senators, John Warner, a Republican, and Jim Webb, a Democrat. The two provided the White House with an agreed list of five acceptable candidates. Getchell was not among them. Webb and Warner had a democratic process and agreed on these consensus nominees and Bush stuck a finger in their eye,” Tobias said. President Bush has again chosen to ignore the requests of local senators covering the 4th Circuit in his latest round of nominations sent to the Senate Nov. 15. Bush included Rod J. Rosenstein of Maryland as a nominee to the 4th Circuit. Rosenstein, the U.S. Attorney in Maryland did not enjoy the backing of the two Democratic Senators in Maryland, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin. The issued a statement Friday expressing their disappointment.

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