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The newly appointed Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission for South Florida reads like a who’s who of the top Republicans in the area. U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. and Gov. Jeb Bush have packed the southern district committee with campaign contributors, Republican activists and relatives of their staff members. Shaw, Bush and U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., announced the new panel last Tuesday. It will serve as the nominating commission for all federal judges and U.S. Attorneys in Florida. A separate commission not yet named will help pick U.S. marshals. Bob Martinez, a former U.S. Attorney for South Florida and a partner in the law firm Colson Hicks Eidson in Coral Gables, will chair the entire commission, overseeing committees in each of the three federal judicial districts in Florida. The 20-member South Florida committee will be chaired by Karen Margulies, 63, of Hollywood, Fla., who serves on the national executive committee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful, conservative pro-Israel lobby in Washington, D.C. Margulies said she has contributed to Shaw’s campaigns and is a longtime friend. She also traveled to Israel with Charles Canady, now general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush, when Canady was a GOP congressman in Florida. Margulies said she has never sat on a judicial nominating commission before and was surprised when Shaw called three weeks ago to ask if she’d be interested in serving on this one. She was “flabbergasted” to learn last Tuesday that she would be the district chair. “I’m deeply honored,” she said. Other members of the committee include former U.S. Attorney Thomas Scott, a Republican; former U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen, also a Republican; Dr. Barry Silverman, chairman of the Foundation of Jewish Philanthropies; and Charles Garcia, former head of the Broward County Republican Party, who has managed several Shaw campaigns. While the committee is heavy with Republicans, there is at least one Democrat on it: Edith Lederberg, executive director of the Area Agency on Aging in Broward County. Lederberg served on the previous JNC, under U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, when Bill Clinton held the White House. The committees will screen applicants and send the names of a few finalists to Shaw, Bush and Young, who will then send their pick to President Bush. Their committee members are named to terms that extend through Dec. 31, 2002. The heavily Republican committee will surely disappoint Democrats who were past candidates for judgeships. They’ve been waiting to see who is named to the judicial nominating committees — and whether the members are all Republicans — before deciding whether to reapply. During the Clinton administration, several Republicans received federal judgeships and key law enforcement posts in Florida. But some Democrats who have applied for judgeships in the past are pessimistic about their chances under the Bush administration. “I want to see if they are a reasonable group of people, or if they appoint all their own people who will have a litmus test,” said one former candidate who is a Democrat. “With this administration, I’ll only have a chance when hell freezes over,” said another former candidate, also a Democrat. In developing the committee structure, Shaw consulted with Democratic Sen. Graham, who had overseen the judicial nominating committees under President Clinton, said Shaw spokeswoman Donna Boyer. But she said she did not know whether Graham will have any direct role in helping decide on appointments under President Bush. Graham’s close collaboration with Republican Sen. Connie Mack in picking judicial candidates resulted in Florida having a high rate of success in getting Clinton-nominated judges confirmed quickly by the GOP-controlled Senate. Clinton’s Republican appointees included Scott as U.S. Attorney in Miami, Stanley Marcus as a judge on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Paul Huck as a federal district judge in Miami. The White House traditionally relies on the senior senator of the president’s party from each state to forward names for judgeships and other top appointments in the senator’s state. With a Republican president but no GOP senators from Florida, Florida’s Republican leaders had to devise a new process. Two weeks ago, Boyer revealed that the triumvirate of Shaw, Young and Jeb Bush would jointly appoint members of the screening committees. Now that the committee members have been named, the panels will have to get down to business quickly. In South Florida, there are two federal district court vacancies — one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Miami. There also is a district court vacancy in the Middle District of Florida, which covers Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Fort Myers. In addition, a permanent U.S. Attorney for the southern district must be named. And, down the line, U.S. District Judge Shelby Highsmith is eligible to take senior status in October, which could open up a third judgeship. Highsmith has said he has not decided whether he will take senior status. The southern district committee likely will focus first on picking a U.S. Attorney. Guy Lewis, who was appointed by Clinton, has served as acting chief prosecutor since last June. Jockeying for the positions are Lewis and three other candidates: Marcos Daniel Jimenez, a partner at White & Case in Miami and brother to Frank Jimenez, Jeb Bush’s deputy chief of staff; Marcia Cooke, a former U.S. magistrate who is now chief of Jeb Bush’s office of inspector general; and Mark Wallace, a partner at Stack Fernandez Anderson Harris & Wallace in Miami who was on George W. Bush’s election recount team. Meanwhile, a number of attorneys interested in federal judgeships are making discreet — and not so discreet — inquiries to elite Republicans lawyers in town. Richard Brodsky, a complex commercial litigator in Miami who has never applied for a judgeship before, said he has spoken to several “appropriate” GOP lawyers about his interest in serving on the bench. Brodsky argues that his litigation experience would make him well-qualified to serve as a federal district judge. Brodsky, however, is a Democrat. U.S. Magistrate Ted Bandstra, who was one of two finalists for a district court judgeship two years ago, said he plans to apply again. If party affiliation is a key factor, he should be in the hunt: Bandstra is a registered Republican. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jerald Bagley, whose name was one of three sent up to Graham last year for a district judgeship, said early last week that he hasn’t decided whether to apply this time. “I’m waiting to see who’s on the committee and how this whole thing develops,” said Bagley, a Democrat.

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