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A North Carolina judge and aide to former Sen. Jesse Helms defended himself Thursday against Democratic accusations that he’s unqualified for a federal appeals court seat that’s been just beyond his reach for almost 15 years. The current animosity between Republicans and Democrats over President Bush’s judicial choices may again endanger U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle’s nomination to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Boyle has been trying to get promoted to the Richmond, Va.-based court that covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia since 1991, when President George H.W. Bush first nominated him. Democrats have blocked his nomination, with senators and liberal groups saying he has been reversed too many times and that he has been hostile to civil rights, women’s rights and employee’s rights. Boyle disagreed with those assertions as he defended his nomination during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Are you so out of the mainstream that you shouldn’t be on an important appellate court?” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Judiciary Democrat. “I hope that I’m clearly in the mainstream and have done my best to apply the law, hear cases on an individual basis and have no agenda or predisposition about cases,” Boyle answered. Groups, including the Southern States Police Benevolent Association and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, oppose Boyle. “What is most remarkable are the number and range of cases that bear out Judge Boyle’s undisguised bias against civil rights, criminal justice, and disability statutes and case law,” Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a letter to the Judiciary Committee. But Boyle, who worked as Helms’ legislative assistant in 1973, said he has ruled based on the facts given to him. “I think that a careful look at my record will show that I am evenhanded, that the cases I have decided have been decided on the facts as I understood them at the time and not based on any agenda,” Boyle said. North Carolinians have been blocked from the 4th Circuit since 1991 because of Senate infighting over judges. The first President Bush nominated Boyle in August 1991, but Democrats stalled the nomination, which President Clinton later withdrew. In retaliation, Helms refused to allow any of Clinton’s nominees from North Carolina to move forward. The current President Bush renominated Boyle in 2001, but former Democratic Sen. John Edwards refused to let the committee consider Boyle’s nomination. Now that Edwards has been replaced by Republican Richard Burr, Republicans again are trying to move Boyle’s nomination. Boyle is one of 20 judicial nominees whom the Senate did not confirm last year, 10 of which were blocked by Democrats. The Senate confirmed 204 others. Republicans have threatened to change Senate rules to prevent Democrats from blocking judicial nominations this year. Separately, conservatives continue to complain about Sen. Robert Byrd’s criticism Tuesday of the proposed rules change because he included a description of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, which he accomplished, in part, by pushing legislation through the German parliament that seemed to legitimize his ascension. But Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said that “was not an anti-Semitic remark, and I resent the fact that they’re raising that kind of insinuation.” Conservatives continued to call for an apology from Byrd and for Democrats to condemn his remarks. “The silence from Senate Democrats in the aftermath of Senator Byrd’s outrageous remarks is deafening,” said Mark Stephens, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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