BUSH coming forward with first judicial picks

Wednesday, May 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush is nominating 11 conservatives to federal appeals courts, after scaling back the size of his first slate of judicial picks in response to Democratic objections.

The nominees themselves are little known outside judicial circles, but their selection offers a first glimpse of Bush's resolve to add conservatives to the federal judiciary and the eagerness of Democrats to stop him.

The White House portrayed the picks as conservative and well-qualified. Bush will welcome them to the White House on Wednesday for a formal nomination ceremony.

``We believe this is the strongest and most diverse slate of judges ever sent up by a president,'' said White House counsel Al Gonzales.

A senior White House official provided The Associated Press with a list of the nominees.

Though a review of their legal records suggests Bush's first judicial nominees are solidly conservative, he took pains to mollify Democrats by appointing three women, two blacks, one Hispanic and two individuals who originally had been tapped for judgeships by President Clinton.

Seven of the 11 candidates are sitting judges.

Many owe previous judicial selections to Republican presidents.

None is known as an ideologue or as especially partisan, although it is hard to gauge the prospects for confirmation when the Senate is split 50-50.

Democrats have threatened to hold up the president's nominees, partly in revenge for the delays that met some of Clinton's judicial picks.

One of the more conservative selections, Washington lawyer Miguel Estrada, has a long list of admirers who call him one of the smartest and ethically rigorous lawyers they know. He is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, the firm that represented Bush at the Supreme Court during the postelection legal fight.

Estrada came to the United States from Honduras as a teen-ager and took the SAT in English two years later. He got into Harvard and graduated near the top of his class.

Estrada favors gun control, but believes in the conservative judicial model of reading the ``plain language'' of a law or of the Constitution. The best-known proponent of this philosophy is probably Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The White House informally advised lawmakers last week that Bush intended to nominate 15 judges, pending final reviews. Candidates drawing objections from Democrats were pulled from the list, including a GOP congressman from California, as Bush sought a controversy-free first slate.

Bush hopes to nominate the withheld candidates at a later date _ but not for a least a couple of weeks _ after further consultation with Congress, the White House official said.

Republican Rep. Chris Cox was the most prominent candidate tabled, along with Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kuhl for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco and Peter Keisler for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va.

In addition to Estrada, the source said Bush also intends to nominate:

_Roger Gregory to the 4th Circuit in Virginia. Clinton nominated him to the post originally. Bush hopes the pick is cast as a show of bipartisanship.

_U.S. District Judge Edith Brown Clement to the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans. She is a member of the conservative Federalist Society, whose members have had a hand in shaping Bush's judicial choices. She was named to the federal bench in Louisiana by President George Bush in 1991.

_U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle to the 4th Circuit in North Carolina. He was nominated for the appeals court by Bush's father but never confirmed.

_John G. Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Also nominated by Bush's father, Roberts is a popular member of the bar who is considered a politically well-connected moderate. A specialist in making oral arguments before the Supreme Court, he is considered among the two or three most effective lawyers there.

_Jeffrey S. Sutton to the 6th Circuit in Ohio. He is a Supreme Court specialist with a winning record.

_Barrington D. Parker, appointed to the bench by Clinton, to the 2nd Circuit in Connecticut. He has 30 years experience as a judge, litigator and law clerk.

_Deborah Cook to the 6th Circuit in Ohio. She was elected twice to the Ohio Supreme Court.

_Dennis Shedd to the 4th Circuit. The South Carolina resident was appointed to the federal district court by Bush's father.

_Prescilla Owen to the 5th Circuit in Texas. Elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1994, she is the second woman ever to sit on the state's high court.

_Michael McConnell to the 10th Circuit in Denver. He is another well-respected Supreme Court specialist, a professor at the University of Utah College of Law.