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Formally starting a Senate confirmation process already mired in partisan bickering, President George W. Bush today will announce 11 nominations to federal appeals courts, according to an administration source. The nominees, who are scheduled to be introduced by Bush in person at a White House event, include three women, two African-Americans, and one Hispanic. Five are sitting federal judges, two serve on state supreme courts, and four are experienced advocates at the U.S. Supreme Court. The nominees are a carefully chosen batch from the unofficial lists of names that have surfaced in recent weeks, and they do not include two potential nominees who have already stirred controversy. The nominees are: � For the D.C. Circuit: John Roberts Jr., a Hogan & Hartson appellate lawyer and former clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist; and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Miguel Estrada, a former assistant to the solicitor general and a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. � For the 2nd Circuit: Barrington Parker Jr., an African-American judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York who was first appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1994. Parker would fill a seat in Connecticut. � For the 4th Circuit: Roger Gregory, an African-American Virginia attorney named to a temporary slot on the court last year by Clinton; Terrence Boyle, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, who was first nominated to the 4th Circuit by the elder President Bush; and Dennis Shedd, a U.S. District Court judge in South Carolina and a former staffer to South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond. � For the 5th Circuit: Edith Brown Clement, U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana; and Priscilla Owen, a member of the Supreme Court of Texas. � For the 6th Circuit: Jeffrey Sutton, an appellate partner from Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue; and Deborah Cook, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court. � For the 10th Circuit: Michael McConnell, a former clerk to the late Justice William Brennan and now a constitutional law professor at the University of Utah. The 4th Circuit’s Gregory was a controversial last-minute appointment by President Clinton. Last December, Clinton used his prerogative to name judges to temporary terms while Congress was in recess, making Gregory the first black judge ever to sit on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. Bush’s renomination of Gregory for a lifetime seat may signal an attempt to placate Senate Democrats who have plunged the confirmation process into gridlock as they argue for more influence in the White House picking process. But considering that Virginia’s two Republican senators support Gregory, the move could also mean the president wants his first batch of nominees to have a relatively easy time in the Senate. The list does not include the names of two would-be nominees who had already attracted opposition by home-state Democrats reacting to White House consultations and news reports about possible candidacies. Peter Keisler, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, was not included for a Maryland seat to the 4th Circuit. Democrat Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski have spoken out against Keisler, a former clerk to both Justice Kennedy and former D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Bork, because Keisler is not a member of the Maryland state bar. Also, Rep. Christopher Cox, one of the most influential California Republicans in Congress, was not included. Liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., has said she would oppose Cox because he’s too conservative; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the Judiciary Committee, has not publicly announced her position. The administration source says neither Keisler nor Cox has been removed from consideration. “They weren’t ready yet,” the source says. “We’re continuing our consultations” with home-state senators. Tom Jipping, who heads the conservative Free Congress Foundation’s judicial selection project, calls the slimmed-down list a function of the “obstructionist campaign” of the Democrats. “It’s a strategic decision for the time being,” he adds. Bush’s nominations team, led by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, has plenty of strategy to work out. The 101 vacancies on the federal bench offer the president 101 opportunities to make a lifetime mark on the nation’s laws. Bush’s team has so far pleased conservatives by its March decision to jettison the American Bar Association — mistrusted by its policy statements on hot-button issues such as abortion and affirmative action — from its 48-year role prescreening nominees. The judge-pickers have also moved quickly, making the first announcements in May, several months before past presidents made their first nominations. Recognizing the importance of the judicial nominations, Democrats have dragged the administration into trench warfare in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last week, all nine Democrats refused to vote on two top Bush Justice Department nominees because of a dispute over home-state senator roles in the judicial confirmation process. “Democratic Senators are only asking for fairness,” says a four-page statement issued by Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat. Leahy points to several of President Clinton’s nominations that were killed without a vote as the result of Republican opposition, usually from home-state Republicans who refused to sign a “blue slip,” the sheet of paper Senate Judiciary chairmen have sent to home-state senators to find out their views on a judicial nominee. Democrats object to statements by Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, saying he won’t allow one senator effectively to veto a circuit court nomination. Hatch has added that he is merely following the practice of Democrats who controlled the process before he became chairman in 1995. Hatch notes in a letter to Democrats that Clinton got 377 nominees confirmed, which shows that Hatch “did not allow a practice which you now demand.” In the letter, Hatch says, “I intend to respect fully a senator’s — whether Democrat or Republican — right to be consulted in a meaningful manner prior to nominations by the White House.” But, he adds, “I would resist any demand that … absolute veto power be granted to any single senator.”

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