Bush's Picks for Court Spur Criticism by Warner, Webb

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007

President Bush nominated two lawyers yesterday to fill vacancies on the federal appeals court in Richmond, but Virginia's U.S. senators immediately criticized the White House for ignoring their recommendations for one of the seats.

Bush nominated Richmond lawyer E. Duncan Getchell Jr. and South Carolina lawyer Steve A. Matthews to fill two of the five vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Both nominees require U.S. Senate approval.

Getchell would fill one of the traditional Virginia seats on the court, but his name was not on a list of five people that Sens. John W. Warner (R) and James Webb (D) sent to the White House in June. The support of home-state senators can be key in winning Senate confirmation of a judicial nominee, especially when Bush faces a Congress controlled by Democrats.

"Despite our good faith, bipartisan effort to accommodate the President, the recommendations that Senator Warner and I made have been ignored," Webb said in a statement. "The White House cannot expect to complain about the confirmation of federal judges when they proceed to act in this manner."

Warner said he has told the White House that "I steadfastly remain committed to the recommendations stated in my joint letter with Senator Webb." Both senators interviewed more than a dozen candidates before making the selections.

The dispute clouds prospects for filling seats on what has been known as one of the nation's most conservative appellate courts, one that has played a key role in terrorism cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The 15-member court, which oversees cases from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the Carolinas, has lost several prominent Republican appointees, and some conservatives have criticized Bush for not moving faster to nominate replacements. Legal experts say the court could tilt decisively to the left if Democrats keep control of Congress and reclaim the White House.

Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman, said the president "gave serious consideration to numerous candidates," including those recommended by Warner and Webb. She called Getchell "a highly qualified attorney" who deserves "a fair and swift confirmation process."

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