The nomination of Virginia Supreme Court Justice Steven Agee to the federal appeals bench has turned into a political football as U.S. senators wage their long-running battle over judicial nominations. Despite the wrangling, however, there is no suggestion that the prospects for Agee’s confirmation are threatened.
The skirmishing plays out against a background of political conflict over President Bush’s appointees to the federal courts. Accused of foot-dragging on confirmations, the Democratic leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee promised to get three appeals court judges confirmed by Memorial Day. Now, Republicans are crying foul because it looks like the Democrats are cherry-picking which nominees they will confirm.
Even though he has Republican roots, Agee is considered one of the Democrats’ “cherries,” since he was approved by both Virginia senators, Democrat Jim Webb and Republican John Warner.
Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy last week announced a confirmation hearing for Agee to take place Thursday at 2:15 p.m. Republicans immediately grumbled about the fact that two other nominees to the Fourth Circuit have been waiting for many months without any hearings scheduled.
Those other nominees are U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad of Charlotte (a UVA Law grad who practiced for three years in Charlottesville) and South Carolina lawyer Steve Matthews.
With the delays in nominations and confirmations, the Fourth Circuit bench remains one third vacant.