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4th Circuit bucks conservative trend

The New York Times has an analysis of the appointments by President George W. Bush to the federal appellate courts.

During Bush’s tenure, the percentage of appellate judges appointed by Republican presidents has gone from 50 percent to 62 percent, and 10 of the 13 federal appellate courts now have majorities appointed by Republicans, The Times says.

The analysis cites cases from circuits illustrating the shift toward a more conservative jurisprudence as a result of those appointments.

Noticeably absent from those illustrations is the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which long held the reputation as the most conservative of the circuits. The 4th Circuit actually became less Republican – and less conservative – during the Bush Administration.

That occurred because such conservative stalwarts as J. Michael Luttig, H. Emory Widener Jr. and William W. Wilkins resigned, died or retired, and opposition by home state senators and the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee blocked Bush’s efforts to replace them with similarly conservative judges.

As a result, only 11 of the court’s 15 seats are filled, and, until the recent appointment of former Supreme Court of Virginia Justice G. Steven Agee, the court had as many Democratic as Republican appointees.

The irony, at least in the 4th Circuit, is that Bush’s insistence on backing candidates with little chance of confirmation by the Senate has left filling those four seats to – if the polls are correct – Barack Obama.

By Alan Cooper

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