And then there was one. Again.

In the Senate Judiciary Committee's quest for Justice Department documents about a special prosecutor inquiry, Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) had held up floor action on five judicial nominations in a bid to shake loose the documents.

On Friday, Metzenbaum lifted his four-day-old hold on four of the nominees and the Senate swiftly confirmed them. But a hold by Metzenbaum and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) continues to block a Senate vote on Associate Attorney General Stephen S. Trott, whose nomination to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been stalled on the floor since December.

The dispute concerns a report by the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section that sources have said recommends that Attorney General Edwin Meese III seek appointment of an independent counsel to probe Faith Ryan Whittlesey, former ambassador to Switzerland. Meese ultimately decided against requesting a special prosecutor.

Justice Department officials have said the committee has no right to see the internal documents and that the statute intends them to be kept confidential. Some Judiciary Committee aides assert that they need to be able to review such documents to perform oversight responsibilities. Trott has been caught in the cross fire.

Metzenbaum's hold on the non-Justice Department judges provoked the ire of some colleagues, particularly because -- at the request of Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-Wyo.) -- Metzenbaum that day had let through Wade Brorby, a nominee to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court.

A Metzenbaum aide said the senator lifted the hold because "he felt like {the Justice Department} got a pretty clear message that it was important" and because Simpson "agreed to be a catalyst to try to work it out with Justice."

Simpson spokesman Mary Kay Hill said Simpson's "motivation is to persuade Sen. Metzenbaum to release his hold." She said the agreement came about when Simpson called Metzenbaum to say " 'Thanks for letting Brorby through. It was very important to me.' Metzenbaum's reply was, 'Well, maybe you can help me' " with the documents.