President Obama should try to fill D.C. Circuit openings

Monday, September 6, 2010

U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth's stem cell opinion was a telling reminder of why the D.C. Circuit is the nation's second-most important court ["NIH cuts off stem cell funding after court order," news story, Aug. 25]. Because the Supreme Court hears few appeals from agency decisions that affect millions, the D.C. Circuit is the final stop for most appeals. When President Obama assumed office, two D.C. Circuit judgeships stood vacant. Yet 19 months later, Obama has nominated no one. It is past time to nominate.

Why the vacancies? Most important is that presidents have drawn four current Supreme Court members from the D.C. Circuit, so the party without White House control has scrutinized and even blocked D.C. Circuit nominees, lest they be confirmed and subsequently be nominated to the high court.

Mr. Obama must promptly fill both vacancies. He should consult Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), because many D.C. judges, attorneys and scholars possess excellent qualifications. But because the D.C. Circuit is a national court, the president should nominate the best candidates available nationwide.

Carl Tobias, Richmond

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