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Ending weeks of bitter political wrangling, the Senate is set to vote on 16 judicial nominees today. The candidates — one for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, one for the 9th Circuit, and 14 for district courts in California, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania — will be the first judicial nominees voted on by the full Senate in more than two months. So far this year, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed seven judges. Democrats have decried the pace, regularly pointing out that in 1992 — the last time a Democratic Senate presided over appointments by a Republican president — 66 judges were confirmed. Politics have dominated the process of filling seats on the federal bench for several years. In recent months, nominees have been logjammed because of a dispute over Democratic opposition to a Republican choice to the Federal Elections Commission. On Tuesday, the Senate began 10 hours of debate on the FEC nominee, Bradley Smith, whom many Democrats and some Republicans object to because he opposes limits on campaign contributions. A vote on Smith is expected to clear the way for votes on the judicial nominees and 49 other Clinton administration appointments, including U.S. attorneys in Kentucky and Missouri. Most nominations are expected to sail through without objection. But four selections for the bench are expected to generate opposition: Federal Circuit nominee Timothy Dyk, Southern District of New York nominee Gerald Lynch, Eastern District of Pennsylvania nominee Mary McLaughlin, and Middle District of Louisiana nominee James Brady. A handful of conservative senators have voted against their nominations in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Judicial Selection Monitoring Project, run by the conservative Free Congress Foundation, has mounted a campaign against Dyk, 63, a partner in the D.C. office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. The Free Congress Foundation-joined by other opponents-object to Dyk’s representation of plaintiffs who challenged a Federal Communications Commission ban on indecent TV programming, among other things. Thomas Jipping, the project’s director, called Dyk “a judicial activist.” Adds Jipping: “He believes he can use the law to achieve political goals.” McLaughlin, 53, a partner at Dechert Price & Rhoads in Philadelphia, has been criticized for her legal work fighting abortion protesters, work for which she received an award from the American Civil Liberties Union. Lynch, 48, is a criminal defense attorney and professor at Columbia University School of Law. Jipping’s group, when asked for proof that Lynch would be an activist judge, supplied the following law review excerpt Lynch wrote. The excerpt comes from Lynch’s eulogy for the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, for whom he clerked: “There is little reason, in any case, to assume that those who drafted and adopted broad and general principles to govern our polity believed or intended that those principles should always and forever be interpreted as they might have expected, even when the social conditions that shaped their own understandings had long since passed from the scene,” Lynch wrote explaining why Brennan was not a judicial activist in the Columbia Law Review in 1997. “Justice Brennan’s belief that the Constitution must be given meaning for the present seems to me a simple necessity; his long and untiring labor to articulate the principles of fairness, liberty, and equality found in the Constitution in the way that he believed made most sense today seems far more honest and honorable than the pretense that the meaning of those principles can be found in 18th- or 19th-century dictionaries.” The fourth nominee expected to draw some heat, Brady, 56, is a partner at Baton Rouge’s Gordon, Arata, McCollam, Duplantis & Eagan. He has done legal work for Democratic causes in Louisiana. Despite the opposition, an aide to a Republican senator who asked not to be named said the four judges would probably win confirmation. “You’re going to get the same Paez-Berzon vote,” referring to the votes in March on 9th Circuit nominees Marsha Berzon and Richard Paez. After each nomination waited on the Senate floor for well over a year, both passed in March-Berzon by a vote of 64-34 and Paez by a vote of 59-39. The deal bringing the votes was cheered by liberals and Democrats, who continued the drumbeat for more votes on judges. “It’s a small step,” said Nan Aron, president of the liberal Alliance for Justice. There are 29 other nominations still waiting votes by the Senate Judiciary Committee. A hearing on some of them is scheduled for Thursday.

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