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The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved new federal prosecutors for three of the areas touched by Tuesday’s terrorist acts. By a unanimous voice vote, the senators moved on 12 nominees for U.S. Attorney posts, including those for Massachusetts, where hijackers boarded two of the planes, and for the districts that include the Pentagon and the site of the United Airlines plane crash in Western Pennsylvania. The U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, Mary Jo White, is already in place because President George W. Bush chose not to replace her, as he did with most of the other chief federal prosecutors around the country. For the nominees moved out of committee Thursday, confirmation by the full Senate is expected soon, said Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The nominees, who could manage some of the most critical aspects of the terrorism investigation, include: Michael Sullivan for the District of Massachusetts, Paul McNulty for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Mary Beth Buchanan for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Later in the day, the committee held an uneventful hearing on judicial nominee Barrington Parker Jr., a New York district judge tapped by Bush for a seat on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The committee’s quick vote on the prosecutors was one example of how Congress has supported executive branch efforts to bring the terrorist organizations responsible for the four hijackings to justice. Legislators have promised to unify behind the president, but some members of the committee offered stinging criticism of the Justice Department on Thursday morning. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., complained that the Department of Justice has yet to arrest Osama bin Laden, the Saudi dissident widely speculated to have been behind Tuesday’s attacks, for 1998 terrorist bombings of American embassies in Africa. Bin Laden is under a federal indictment for the bombings. “Osama bin Laden has been at war with the United States since 1989, but we haven’t been at war with Osama bin Laden,” said Specter. Later, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., complained that a Federal Bureau of Investigation briefing for senators on Wednesday was “a colossal waste of time” because he learned no more than what he had seen from TV reports. DOJ officials could not be reached by press time. The meeting was not devoted solely to terrorism issues, however, and soon resembled business as usual. Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made an impassioned plea for more federal judgeships in San Diego, where eight active judges are each handling nearly 1,000 cases, many of them drug offenses stemming from illegal border crossings. Noting that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recommends that judges manage only 430 cases at one time, Feinstein said, “I throw myself on the mercy of the committee. We have a very real crisis in California.” Feinstein offered an amendment to a Justice Department funding authorization bill that would allow new judgeships to be created in districts where per-judge caseloads rose to more than twice the Administrative Office’s recommended caseload. After squabbling with Leahy, who had suggested Feinstein broach her idea at another time, the committee broke without resolving the issue. But it appeared Feinstein would get her amendment, with no senators present opposing her. Sens. Durbin; Mike DeWine, R-Ohio; and John Edwards, D-N.C., wanted to add amendments that would give their states new judgeships as well. Only two members of the committee were present on Thursday afternoon for Parker’s screening. Chairman Leahy asked Parker a few questions about whether he would follow precedent and also wondered if Parker would miss the pace of trial court work. Parker said he would have no problem following the law and that he thought he would enjoy the different challenges of appellate work. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked Parker if he thought 10 or 20 years was too long for a death penalty case to go from conviction to execution of sentence. Parker responded that “Justice delayed is justice denied,” but also noted that criminal cases always have precedence over other matters. The committee also considered the nomination of Michael Mills, a Mississippi Supreme Court justice tapped for a district court seat. With airports shut down, Parker and Mills each drove to Washington, D.C., Mills driving through the night. Laurie Smith Camp, a nominee for a district court seat in Nebraska who was scheduled to appear, was unable to make it to D.C., according to Leahy. Legal Times editorial assistant Wheatly Aycock contributed to this report.

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