The Senate yesterday confirmed 10 new federal judges, including two for Virginia and one for Maryland, after Republicans decided not to delay the appointments in hopes of picking their own nominees next year.
Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker Jr. of Tennessee noted that "a great many other judicial appointments" are still pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee and that yesterday's confirmation may be the last until after the Nov. 4 elections. If Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan defeats President Carter, the remaining nominations would be dead and Reagan would be free to submit new candidates after his inaugural.
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) was among those who urged action yesterday on the judgeships, saying that "merit should be the only test" for the federal bench.
Among nominees confirmed by voice vote yesterday were Virginia state senator J. Harry Michael Jr. of Charlottesville for the western district of Virginia, Richmond lawyer Richard L. Williams for the eastern district of Virginia, and Baltimore lawyer Norman P. Ramsey for Maryland. d
Michael and Williams were among three nominees supported by Virginia's senior senator, Independent Harry F. Byrd Jr. The name of a third Byrd choice, Abingdon lawyer James Jones, was not among those brought to the floor yesterday.
An aide said Warner was told by Republican floor strategists that the group of 10 judges could include only two from Virginia, and that Warner therefore supported Michael and Williams because both were rated "highly qualified" by the American Bar Asociation. Jones was given the lower rating of "qualified," the aide said.
Also left pending yesterday was President Carter's controversial nomination of Virginia's only black state circuit court judge, James E. Sheffield of Richmond, to the federal bench.
Sheffield was nominated by Carter over Byrd's objection. The senator has insisted that he followed the president's advice by appointing two five-member panels that suggested 10 white males for the four open seats on the federal district court in Virginia.
The White House picked three nominees from Byrd's lists, but because none of the Byrd nominees were women or minorities, Carter went outside the list to select Shefield. The president repeatedly had said he viewed the 151 new judgeships created by bills in the past three years as an opportunity to increase the number of minorities and women in the federal judiciary.