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Court watchers are scanning a list of 51 would-be judges tapped by former President George Bush in 1992. The Senate, then controlled by Democrats, didn’t vote on these nominees, but President George W. Bush could give them a second chance. Of the 51 failed nominees, 37 are from states that now have open federal judgeships. The nominees included Frank Keating, now governor of Oklahoma, but then a top official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Former President Bush nominated him to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit seat has since been filled, but three District Court seats in Oklahoma are open. Nominated to the 4th Circuit was Terrence Boyle, a former counsel to House Republican leadership and aide to Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. Boyle, a Ronald Reagan appointee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, could take one of the two 4th Circuit seats from North Carolina currently open. Two well-known D.C. lawyers were nominated to judgeships during the last Bush administration. John Roberts Jr., now an appellate lawyer at Hogan & Hartson, was principal deputy solicitor general when Bush nominated him to the D.C. Circuit. Now there are three openings on the D.C. Circuit. Maureen Mahoney, now with Latham & Watkins, was deputy solicitor general when Bush tapped her for a seat on the Eastern District of Virginia, which currently has one vacancy. Both Roberts or Mahoney have been mentioned as potential solicitor general appointees under Bush. Whether anyone on the 1992 list would be nominated again is an open question. Some would relish the opportunity, while others have unpleasant memories of the nominations process. Louis Leonatti is a litigator from Mexico, Mo., whose nomination for a district judgeship died in the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1992. He spent nearly a year vying for the job, starting with an interview before a recommendation panel for then-Sen. John Danforth, the senior Missouri Republican. In January 1992, Danforth picked Leonatti from three finalists and said he’d recommend him to President Bush. The senator, who’d just survived backing Justice Clarence Thomas through his Supreme Court confirmation, warned Leonatti that the nomination might stall in the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Delaware Democrat Joe Biden. While the Senate confirmed 66 judges that year, Danforth was right about Leonatti and 50 other Bush picks. Leonatti, a partner in a two-person law firm, says the nomination, while a great honor, cost him financially. “Frankly, you lose clients,” he says, pointing out that clients need to know whether their lawyer will still be able to handle their cases in a year or two. One of Bush’s 80 judicial openings is in Missouri’s Eastern District, where Leonatti lives. If asked to serve, Leonatti says he would seriously consider going through the arduous nominations process again. But, he adds, “I don’t want to to be dangling in the wind again.”

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