Preparing to make his first judicial nominations, President Bush has dumped the last of President Clinton's judicial nominees, including the first black appellate judge in the circuit with the most minorities in the nation.
But Roger Gregory, who was the first black judge on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., when appointed temporarily by Mr. Clinton, might still have a chance to stay on the bench, officials said.
"Some of these individuals will be considered for positions in the Bush administration," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "No one should be considered ruled in or out at this point."
Mr. Bush on Monday officially withdrew 62 executive and judicial nominations made by Clinton in his last days, including Gregory. The 4th U.S. Circuit comprising Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia includes more minorities than any other circuit in the nation.
"President Clinton appointed a highly qualified, well-respected lawyer in Roger Gregory," said Julia Payne, the former president's spokeswoman. "It's clear that Roger Gregory met every qualification to be on this court except for the right-wing litmus test."
Mr. Clinton gave Gregory and more than 42 other nominees recess appointments after they weren't considered by the Senate last year. But the recess appointment only allows the nominee to serve until the end of the year.
So Mr. Clinton renominated Gregory and some other judicial candidates not considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee before he left office and it is those nominations Mr. Bush is pulling back.
Democrats complained last year that the Republican-controlled committee had been unfair to women and minority candidates. Republicans denied the charge.
"I am disappointed that such qualified nominees, some of whom have been waiting four years for a hearing and a vote, have been withdrawn," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat.
The decision to withdraw the Clinton judicial nominees comes as Mr. Bush starts to look at filling the remaining vacancies with his own nominees.
White House counsel Albert Gonzales and Attorney General John Ashcroft met with top officials from the American Bar Association on Monday to discuss the nomination process. A committee of senior administration officials led by Gonzales has interviewed more than 50 candidates in a drive to fill nearly 100 vacancies with judges who share Mr. Bush's conservative philosophy.
However, with the 50-50 Senate split, Democrats have more power in the committee.
"The president's action withdrawing the nine appellate court nominees, including the two well-qualified women from Michigan, deals a body blow to the bipartisan cooperation needed to move forward in many critical areas, including filling judicial vacancies," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
Other jdicial nominees whose names were withdrawn included:
- Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell, who wanted a position on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Lawyer Enrique Moreno of El Paso, Texas, to the 5th U.S. Circuit.
- Kathleen McCree-Lewis, who would be the first black woman on the 6th Circuit if approved.
- Prominent Honolulu attorney James Duffy for the 9th Circuit.
- North Carolina State Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn for the 4th Circuit.
- Helene White, nominated more than three years ago for the 6th Circuit.
- Barry P. Goode of Richmond, Calif., for the 9th Circuit.
- H. Alston Johnson III to the 5th Circuit.
- Sarah Wilson for the U.S. Claims Court.
"I urge President Bush to renominate Judge Gregory strictly on his merits and I firmly believe we should rise above our feelings about the method by which he was originally appointed and act in a statesmanlike manner," Allen said Monday.