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As the dust finally settles from the election of President George W. Bush, new power brokers who will make key decisions on appointments of federal judges, U.S. attorneys and U.S. marshals in Florida have emerged. A triumvirate of Gov. Jeb Bush and the state’s most senior Republican congressmen, C.W. “Bill” Young of St. Petersburg and Largo, and E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Fort Lauderdale, will replace Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, as the ones who will appoint screening committees to pick candidates for the three important jobs. The three will then review the names of the committees’ top candidates and recommend finalists to the White House. “The three are working together to set up the framework by which these positions will be chosen,” said Donna Boyer, Shaw’s press secretary, who added that the committees were expected to be established this week. Traditionally, the most senior senator in the same party as the sitting president acts as the power broker who appoints the panels and forwards the names of top candidates for judges and U.S. attorney to the president. But in the case of Florida, as is true in New York, there are no senators sharing the president’s party. Therefore, a new mechanism for picking top posts had to be devised. So, it was only natural that the task would fall to the governor and the top-ranking congressmen in the same party as the president, said Boyer. In New York, however, the situation appears less congenial. Republican Gov. George Pataki and Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman, the senior Republican congressman in New York, are jockeying for the role of judicial gatekeeper, according to the New York Law Journal. Insiders say that Young, Shaw and Gov. Bush are certain to include Graham and newly elected Sen. Bill Nelson, also a Democrat, in the process. That is because the Republican candidates must be confirmed by a Senate evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. During the Clinton years, Graham was known for working closely — and successfully — on appointments with former Republican Sen. Connie Mack, who retired. “We hope to continue what has been a bipartisan process that has worked really well in the past,” said Karen Benjamin, a spokeswoman for Graham. “That process attracted top applicants, avoided needless delays and assured quality appointments to the bench, and we hope whatever happens next will be equally successful.” According to one highly placed Republican source, a screening committee will be set up in each of Florida’s three federal judicial districts, the Southern, the Middle and the Northern. Each committee — with as many as 17 members — will interview candidates for U.S. attorney, district judge and U.S. marshal. For several weeks, Bush, Shaw and Young have solicited names of potential candidates for the committees from Republican congressmen and congresswomen, according to the source. It is likely that the committee for South Florida’s district will first set its sights on choosing a new U.S. attorney before filling the two federal judge spots that are open or the U.S. marshal’s post. There are two judicial openings: the seat formerly held by Judge Edward B. Davis, who retired from the bench last year, and a new spot that was approved by Congress several months ago. In addition, new presidents in the past have asked for resignations from the sitting U.S. attorneys and marshals and doled out those jobs as political plums. The current U.S. marshal for South Florida, James Tassone, is a career law enforcement officer, and well-respected by the legal community. But last week, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told the New York Law Journal that the Justice Department advised him it will not ask for en masse resignations and intends to evaluate all sitting U.S. attorneys on an individual basis. Speculation has been rampant for months in the South Florida legal community about who will get the district’s top federal prosecutor job in one of the most high-profile and busiest districts in the country. Many insiders, including some judges, believe that U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis — who wants to stay on — should remain. They argue that Lewis, 39, is a career prosecutor who is liked by judges, lawyers and employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They say he brings stability to an office that has seen more than a half-dozen people hold the job in less than a decade. Lewis’ stiffest competition for the job, say insiders, is Marcos Daniel Jimenez, 41, a former federal prosecutor who now defends white-collar criminals as a partner with White & Case in Miami. Jimenez was on the team of lawyers who represented George W. Bush in the Florida vote recount lawsuits. Jimenez’s brother, Frank, is deputy chief of staff to Gov. Jeb Bush. Marcos Jimenez declined to say whether he is interested in the job. Two other possible candidates are Marcia Cooke, 46, a former U.S. magistrate and federal prosecutor who is now chief of Gov. Bush’s office of inspector general, and Mark Wallace, 33, a partner with the law firm Stack Fernandez Anderson Harris & Wallace in Miami. Wallace was also part of the team of lawyers representing Bush in the recount and previously represented Vice President Dick Cheney. Wallace served as general counsel to Gov. Bush on his first charter school, on the Foundation for Florida’s Future, established after Bush lost his first gubernatorial run, and on the Miami Emergency Financial Oversight Board from 1998 to the present. Cooke would not say whether she had been asked to apply. “I would be honored to serve if asked,” she said. Wallace said he was contacted by powerful Republicans in January and that he is definitely interested in the job. “Any lawyer who has an opportunity to serve in this manner — it’s impossible to say no,” he said. “It’s a great calling.” While the committees have not yet been set up, politicking behind the scenes by supporters of potential U.S. attorney candidates has been furious, according to one insider. “You can bet that Shaw’s office and the governor’s office are getting phone calls and e-mails ad nauseam,” he said.

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