A Nominee Withdraws

Friday, January 25, 2008

PRESIDENT BUSH owes E. Duncan Getchell Jr. a debt of gratitude. Mr. Getchell recently asked that his nomination be withdrawn for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the federal court that hears appeals from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the Carolinas.

Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Getchell in September to a so-called Virginia seat on the court. The nomination was virtually dead the moment it was announced. Virginia's two senators, John W. Warner (R) and James Webb (D), had vetted about a dozen lawyers for the court and forwarded to the White House the names of five candidates they jointly supported. Mr. Getchell's name was not on that list; his nomination was seen as an unwise and counterproductive snub of the senators.

That misstep has come back to haunt Mr. Bush, who withdrew the nomination Wednesday. Without the support of the home-state senators, the nomination could not go forward. Mr. Getchell's pragmatic and gracious move has now given Mr. Bush an opportunity to make things right by nominating someone on the Warner-Webb list, which includes Judge Glen E. Conrad, whom the president named to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in 2003, and Virginia Supreme Court Justice and former state lawmaker G. Steven Agee.

The 15-member 4th Circuit, once considered one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country, has been limping along with five vacancies. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) rightly noted in a statement that "time has been wasted" while Mr. Getchell's moribund nomination was pending, and he urged Mr. Bush to "work with Senator Warner and Senator Webb to select a nominee whose nomination can move forward in the Judiciary Committee." As far apart ideologically as Mr. Bush and Mr. Leahy usually are, this should be one matter that they can act on quickly. The plaintiffs, defendants and residents of the 4th Circuit deserve no less.

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