Bush Picks Official at Justice for D.C. Circuit

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 30, 2006

President Bush nominated a senior Justice Department official yesterday to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

If confirmed by the Senate, Peter D. Keisler would fill the seat vacated last year when John G. Roberts Jr. was appointed chief justice of the United States.

It marked the second time that Bush has nominated Keisler, 45, for a judgeship. In his first term, Bush nominated the Yale Law School graduate and former clerk for Robert H. Bork and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which comprises Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes, both Maryland Democrats, blocked his bid because the Bethesda resident did not practice law in Maryland. Bush eventually pulled his nomination.

If confirmed this time, Keisler would take his seat on the D.C. Circuit, considered the second-highest court in the nation because it hears so many critical cases involving the federal government.

He would also be returning to the court where he clerked in 1985 and 1986 for Bork when he was a circuit judge.

Keisler graduated from Yale University magna cum laude in 1981 and from Yale Law School in 1985. He worked in the White House counsel's office for President George H.W. Bush. From 1989 to 2002, he worked for the Sidley Austin law firm, where he became a partner in 1993.

In 2002, he joined the Justice Department, rising to the position of assistant attorney general for the Civil Division in 2003.

In April 2005, Keisler defended the administration's policy of military tribunals in a case that was overturned yesterday by the Supreme Court.

In his argument before the D.C. Circuit, Keisler said that the president should be allowed to exercise his power to prosecute and punish al-Qaeda terrorism suspects for war crimes without intervention from U.S. courts.

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