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President Bush plans to revive the nomination of a black federal judge first suggested by the Clinton administration, a move likely to be seen as conciliatory to Democrats during heated arguments in the Senate over the new president’s upcoming judicial selections. Congressional and administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Roger Gregory of Richmond, Va., is among several names being circulated to key senators. If nominated and confirmed, he would become the first permanent black judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The disclosure came as tempers flared at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has been embroiled in an argument with Democrats over whether they can block Bush’s nominees. Democrats walked out of the session, denying Hatch the quorum he needed to get confirmation votes on four Justice Department nominees. That infuriated the Utah Republican, who insisted he would not allow any of the new president’s judicial nominations to be killed by a single senator. “Do you want me to be your chairman or do you want me to be your puppet?” Hatch asked Democrats. During the Clinton administration, Democrats contend, Hatch on occasion allowed a single Republican to veto a home-state nominee to the federal bench. “I would not want to think that Senate procedure would change because the presidency changes,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee’s top Democrat. Former President Clinton first nominated Gregory to the post last June 30 after having three North Carolina judges blocked by Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. The Gregory nomination never came to a vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, leading to bitter complaints from Democrats. So after Congress adjourned, Clinton gave him a one-year appointment to the federal court. The 4th Circuit — made up of Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia — has more minorities than any other circuit and has had vacancies for more than 10 years. Sheldon Goldman, a University of Massachusetts professor and author of the book, “Picking Federal Judges: Lower Court Selection From Roosevelt Through Reagan,” said he thinks picking Gregory first would be smart for Bush. “I think it’s important for Bush to at least make the case that he’s reaching out to the Democrats, that he wants to appoint a diverse judiciary, that he wants to make an appeal to African-Americans,” he said. Republicans should also have no problem with Gregory, he said. “Gregory is a very moderate person,” Goldman said. “He’s no firebrand, he’s a well-thought-of mainstream lawyer.” Other names on Bush’s list for federal judgeships include Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., and Carolyn Kuhl for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco; Peter Keisler and Terry Boyle for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.; Miguel Estrada and John Roberts for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Edith Brown Clement for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans; and Jeffrey Sutton for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati. Most of them have clear conservative credentials. Boyle, a judge on the District Court in North Carolina and a former Helms staffer, was nominated by Bush’s father for the appeals court but his confirmation was blocked by Democrats. Helms responded by blocking every one of Clinton’s judicial nominees from North Carolina. His Democratic counterpart, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, now says he is thinking about doing the same thing. “After being blocked over eight years from even having a nominee considered for a vote, we’re not now going to just roll over and let them put their people through,” Edwards said. Cox, a staunch conservative, also may have a difficult time in the Senate. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has been openly critical of Cox’s nomination. And the state’s other senator, Dianne Feinstein, also a Democrat, has said the veto debate in the Judiciary Committee may affect her support of Cox. Hatch has conceded it would be very difficult to bring a nomination through the Senate if both home-state senators oppose the nomination. Sutton, the former Ohio solicitor general who pressed several states’ rights cases against the federal government, was originally appointed by President Bush’s father but never received a confirmation vote by the Senate. Kuhl, a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge, was a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy before he was elevated to the high court. Keisler, a prominent Washington lawyer, also clerked for Kennedy and Robert Bork when he was on the appeals court in Washington. However, sources cautioned that the list could change before the final announcement, especially considering the continuing fight in the Senate. Democrats have complained that the White House has not consulted them on their first judicial picks. “I told the senators in their presence, ‘I’m sorry if you don’t feel properly consulted,’ ” White House counsel Al Gonzalez said. “ But we’re doing everything we feel we can do to consult.” But “the word ‘consult’ does not appear in the Constitution,” Gonzales added. “It says advice and consent.” Democrats also have held up confirmation votes on Theodore Olson to be solicitor general and Larry Thompson to be deputy attorney general. During the three-hour hearing Thursday, Democrats showed interest in only the “blue slips” issue — the blue forms used by senators to give their decisions on nominees from their home states. Democrats say a negative blue slip should end a nominee’s chances, while Republicans say it should have “substantial weight” but not be an automatic veto. Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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