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President George W. Bush last week nominated White Plains, N.Y., federal judge Barrington D. Parker Jr. to an open slot on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, tipping the circuit’s appellate bench heavily toward New York jurists. Parker, a 56-year-old African-American, would fill a slot vacated by Ralph K. Winter, who took senior status last fall. Traditionally, 2nd Circuit posts vacated by Connecticut judges have been replaced with Connecticut nominees. Nominally, Parker fits the bill in that he is a resident of Stamford. If President Bush addresses Yale’s commencement class in New Haven this month, he is likely to have a chance to meet his nominee: Parker is a trustee of the Yale Corp. But Parker has never practiced in Connecticut and is not licensed in the Nutmeg State. President Bill Clinton named Parker a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York in 1994. Before that, he practiced general commercial litigation in New York City as a partner with Morrison & Foerster from 1987 to 1994 and with Parker Auspitz Nessemann & Delehanty from 1977 to 1987. He was associated with Sullivan & Cromwell from 1970 to 1977. Following his graduation from Yale Law School in 1969, he served as a clerk for Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the city where Parker was born and educated in the public schools. STACKED WITH N.Y. JUDGES Parker’s nomination, however, raises concern over Connecticut’s representation — or increasing lack thereof — on the Circuit Court bench. Though a Stamford resident, Parker is widely considered by members of Connecticut’s bench and bar to be a New Yorker. Where a circuit appointee has spent his or her professional career, not where the appointee lives, has long been used to determine the state — New York, Connecticut or Vermont — from which a nomination emanates, court observers say. If confirmed by Congress, Parker would take the seat vacated by Winter, whose primary chambers are in New Haven and who is still a senior judge on the Circuit Court. That would leave only two of the 13 active judges on the Circuit Court with clear professional and political ties to Connecticut: Jose A. Cabranes and Guido Calabresi. Circuit Court Chief Judge John M. Walker recently moved to New Haven, but like Parker, has spent most of his legal career in New York. Between 1994, when Cabranes was elevated to the 2nd Circuit, and 1997, when Circuit Judge Jon O. Newman took senior status, Connecticut jurists held four seats on the appeals court. Since the Circuit Court expanded to its current size, the Nutmeg State has never accounted for less than three of the court’s 13 active judgeships. In addition to Newman and Winter, Senior Judge Thomas J. Meskill also sits in Connecticut. Geography doesn’t play a role in the appeals to which a circuit judge is assigned. But the reduction of Connecticut seats, if not fixed the next time a vacancy on the court opens, would limit the opportunities Connecticut’s senators get to influence future picks to the federal appeals court. That could throw a monkey wrench into the professional aspirations of U.S. District Court judges in Connecticut. However, Sens. Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph I. Lieberman, both Democrats, wholeheartedly endorsed Parker’s nomination in a joint statement issued May 10. “I commend the President on this choice and would urge him not to send up other jurists who — unlike Judge Parker — are out of touch with mainstream America,” said Dodd. “I look forward to meeting with Mr. Parker to discuss his nomination and qualifications in greater detail.” Lieberman noted his more than 35-year association with Parker, dating back to their days at Yale. He praised the nominee as “an extraordinarily able and honorable man.” LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON As a federal judge, Parker has presided over several high-profile cases, including the trial of mobster John Gotti Jr., a precedent-setting racial discrimination case against Texaco, tax evasion charges against baseball player Darryl Strawberry and a federal tax-fraud case against Albert Pirro, a prominent Republican fundraiser and husband of Westchester County, N.Y., District Attorney Jeanine Pirro. And while the Bush family may be creating a presidential dynasty, Parker, a Democrat, has an even stronger judicial legacy. His grandfather, George A. Parker, founded the Robert H. Terrell School of Law, a night school for aspiring African-American lawyers in Washington, D.C. His father, Barrington Parker Sr., practiced at George Parker’s firm until he was appointed by Richard Nixon in 1969 to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The two Barrington Parkers were the first African-American father and son appointed to the federal judiciary. Barrington Parker Jr. is notoriously press-shy, reluctant to grant any interviews. But in a 1998 newspaper profile before the Pirro trial, the Westchester Journal News quoted several of Parker’s close friends as saying that he was all but born to the judiciary. “He loves being a judge,” New York City lawyer James R. DeVita, a 30-year friend and former colleague of Parker, told the newspaper. “He likes the variety of different matters he gets to deal with; he likes the intellectual challenge, and he also likes dispensing justice.” Attorneys who have appeared before Parker (whose friends call him “Danny”) say the jurist is deliberate and even-tempered, a man who takes the time to fully listen and contemplate arguments. While in private practice, Parker was involved in a variety of professional and civic activities. For a number of years, he was president of the Board of the Harlem School of the Arts, as well as vice-president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. He continues to serve on the boards of the New School University, where he formerly served on the Executive Committee and chaired the Institutional Policy Committee; Greenwich Academy; the Governance Institute; and the South Africa Legal Services and Education Project. He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His former activities include leadership positions with the Association of the Bar of the City of New York and board membership at St. Paul’s School, the Visiting Nurse Service, and the American Arbitration Association.

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