Correction to This Article
The headline on a May 12 article about Terrence W. Boyle, President Bush's nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, incorrectly said that Boyle has spent 15 years as a nominee. The article referred to the judge's nearly 15-year bid for a seat on the appellate bench; he was nominated for the 4th Circuit by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 and by the current President Bush in 2001 and again this year.

N.C. Judge Has Spent 15 Years as A Nominee

Terrence W. Boyle, a district judge in eastern North Carolina, was first nominated for an appeals court post by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
Terrence W. Boyle, a district judge in eastern North Carolina, was first nominated for an appeals court post by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Senate Judiciary Committee's schedule says today is the day for a vote on President Bush's nomination of Terrence W. Boyle to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Then again, the Republican-controlled committee may put it off to deal with other judicial nominees and unrelated business; it has done so twice this year already.

And so it goes in Boyle's bid for a seat on the federal appellate bench -- a nearly 15-year saga whose end is nowhere in sight.

Boyle, a favorite of former senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), has been a controversial candidate ever since President George H.W. Bush tried and failed in 1991 to put him on the Richmond-based 4th Circuit.

Democrats say he is an ultra-conservative who is hostile to civil rights and has been frequently overruled on appeal; they have not ruled out a filibuster against him if he is approved by the Judiciary Committee. Republicans call him a fair-minded judge and tout his "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association.

But the debate has gone far beyond his qualifications or philosophy. Over the years, it has become an argument over race, politics and plain old partisan payback.

As such, it illustrates the tangled, rancorous history of the current Senate impasse over Bush's judicial nominations -- a deadlock that could turn into a political crisis if Republicans eliminate the filibuster to speed confirmation of Bush's picks, and Democrats respond by blocking other Senate business. Boyle is one of 12 circuit court nominees pending before the Senate.

"It's like the Hatfields and McCoys," said Ronald A. Klain, a former top aide to Vice President Al Gore who also headed the Senate Judiciary Committee's Democratic staff in the early 1990s. "Trying to figure out who shot first is completely incomprehensible at this point in time."

Boyle, 59, graduated from Brown in 1967 and from American University's law school in 1970. A transplanted New Jerseyite, he owes his prominence in North Carolina in part to his connection to Helms.

A staunch advocate of states' rights, Boyle worked briefly for Helms in 1973. He is the son-in-law of Tom Ellis, the adviser who helped build Helms's political machine.

At Helms's urging, President Ronald Reagan nominated Boyle, then a lawyer in private practice, to be a federal district judge in 1984. The Senate confirmed him on a unanimous vote.

It was not until October 1991, when Bush tapped him for the 4th Circuit -- at Helms's behest -- that Boyle became the object of partisan wrangling.

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