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The American Bar Association voted Tuesday to urge the president and the Senate to move “promptly” to name and confirm candidates for the federal judiciary. The unanimous vote of the ABA’s House of Delegates came only after a separate and more controversial proposal, admonishing the Senate to act on nominations within a six-month deadline, was withdrawn. A leading proponent of the successful resolution, Charles English of Kentucky, told the delegates that the measure was intended to assist a federal court system “compromised by an extraordinary number of unfilled vacancies.” There are now 80 vacancies on the federal bench, including 27 on appeals courts. English, who chaired his state’s delegation to the ABA convention, said the resolution was not intended “to criticize the president, the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, or any political party” but merely to reiterate a long-standing ABA policy in favor of filling judicial vacancies expeditiously. The resolution was co-sponsored by the ABA’s Litigation Section. The Kentucky resolution passed after C. Boyden Gray, a partner at Washington, D.C.’s Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, withdrew a competing proposal that urged the Senate to act on judicial nominees within six months. Gray, a Republican who was White House counsel during the first Bush administration, has been a vocal critic of the Democratic leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last week, he drew flak from political foes who said his proposal would interfere with Senate prerogatives and cast blame for confirmation problems solely upon the Democrats. “After much negotiation and discussion with the sponsors of the Kentucky resolution,” Gray said to the delegates, “I am satisfied with it.” The judicial nominations issue has reached a flash point this summer, as several circuit court nominees have waited more than a year without a hearing before the Judiciary Committee. In the highly politicized atmosphere, every word of the two competing ABA proposals, which are merely advisory, was scrutinized for some sort of partisan tilt. Gray, who had said last week that even the passage of the Kentucky resolution would represent a victory of sorts for his viewpoint, withdrew his alternative partly because it would have faced stiff opposition in the House of Delegates, the ABA’s policy-making body. Judah Best, a partner at the D.C. office of Debevoise & Plimpton who was a delegate from the ABA’s Litigation Section, told the House of Delegates that the Kentucky resolution was necessary “to preserve a strong and independent judiciary.” “Out of 11 nominees nominated on May 9, 2001, for the circuit courts, only three have been confirmed,” Best said. “Eight have still not been confirmed,” Best went on. “I will tell you about one of them [D.C. Circuit nominee and Hogan & Hartson partner], John Roberts, who is one of the finest appellate and constitutional lawyers in the country and is still waiting for confirmation.” “But this is not a Democratic Senate problem,” Best added. “It has been going on for the last 10 to 12 years.” Also on Tuesday, which was the last day of the ABA’s annual convention in Washington, D.C., former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer formally began his one-year term as the ABA’s president-elect. Archer is the first black person to hold the position. He will become ABA president at the bar group’s next annual meeting in San Francisco in 2003. In a separate action, the ABA named 10 new attorneys to its 37-member Board of Governors. They are Carolyn Lamm of the D.C. office of White & Case; Howard Dana Jr. of Portland, Maine; Alice Richmond of Richmond, Pauly & Ault in Boston; J. Douglas Stewart of Stewart, Melvin & Frost in Gainesville, Ga.; William Allen of Little Rock, Ark.; Pamela Roberts of Columbia, S.C.; John Uilkema of Thelen Reid & Priest in San Francisco; Lori Weems of Holland & Knight in Miami; Paula Frederick of the State Bar of Georgia in Atlanta; and Walter White Jr. from the London office of Bryan Cave.

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