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Last week, President George W. Bush nominated longtime U.S. District Judge Edward Prado of San Antonio to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a choice that several lawyers believe will receive much less flak in the U.S. Senate confirmation process than Bush’s two previous choices for the court. Prado, a well-liked jurist who has 19 years of experience on the trial bench, previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, an assistant federal public defender, a Bexar County assistant district attorney and a state district judge. Last year, Bush’s two other nominees for the court, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering of Mississippi, met with strong opposition from Democratic senators and activist groups. Owen’s and Pickering’s nominations were defeated by a party-line vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and both were renominated by Bush this year, after Republicans recaptured control of the Senate. Four San Antonio lawyers who’ve appeared before Prado can’t imagine the jurist having the sort of problems that Owen and Pickering have faced with the Judiciary Committee. Owen was criticized by pro-choice groups for her abortion-related rulings, while Pickering met opposition from civil rights groups for a ruling he made on a cross-burning case. “If I were President Bush, which of course I’m not, I would leap over Pickering and Owen and go to Prado because I can’t imagine him having any opposition,” says Laurence R. “Larry” Macon, a partner in the San Antonio office of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. “I’ve known him for 30 years, and he doesn’t have any outrageous positions. He won’t be there trying to make law.” Seagal Wheatley, a partner in the San Antonio office of Jenkens & Gilchrist, agrees. “If the Judiciary Committee looks at his qualifications, he should be a shoo-in,” Wheatley says. “I’m not aware of any recent opinion that will cause him problems.” SMOOTH SAILING? Prado also hopes he won’t have any problems in the Senate. “You never know or you never see what opposition may be out there,” Prado says. “I’ve been a judge for 19 years, and there’s a pretty extensive record. I’m hoping for a smooth hearing.” One of Prado’s most noticed opinions in recent years was his Jan. 7, 2000, decision in GI Forum, et al. v. Texas Education Agency, et al. In that opinion, Prado ruled that the use of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test to determine whether a student gets a high school diploma is constitutional. The plaintiffs in that case — Hispanic and black students — challenged the test, alleging that it discriminated against them because it caused a disproportionate amount of minority students to be held back and ultimately drop out of school. At the time, Prado said the opinion was “probably the most challenging decision I’ve had to make.” Prado, one of the first Hispanics to ally with the Republican Party in San Antonio, was appointed to the U.S. District Court bench in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. Al Kauffman, a former San Antonio attorney who represented the plaintiffs in GI Forum, says he respects Prado. That respect extends to San Antonio’s criminal bar, says Van Hilley, a partner in Goldstein, Goldstein and Hilley. “Judge Prado has a varied background and an open mind about things,” Hilley says. “The reason his docket ran so smooth is he wasn’t viewed as pro-government or pro-defense.” While Prado’s judicial philosophy may be hard to peg, his personality isn’t. Prado is known as a jokester who keeps things light in the courtroom and puts jurors at ease. During the 2002 holiday season, he wore a Santa Claus hat on the bench. “People have been trying to figure me out for years,” Prado says. “And they still haven’t.” Also on Feb. 6, U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, recommended that Bush replace Prado on the U.S. District Court bench with Xavier Rodriguez, a former Republican appointee to the Texas Supreme Court. Rodriguez was defeated in the March 2002 Republican primary election by Steven Wayne Smith. “I’m greatly honored and very humbled, and I greatly appreciate the confidence the senators have placed in me,” says Rodriguez, who is a partner in Fulbright & Jaworski in San Antonio.

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