By Christopher anderson
WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a confirmation vote Thursday on a nominee for the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, leaving the 15- member court down four judges.
In spite of the vacancies, which include one vacant Maryland judgeship, judges on the court said they believe they can maintain its caseload.
“We’re handling the caseload.” said Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer. The Maryland judge said there are currently no significant delays in hearing cases in the circuit, which hears appeals from federal courts in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina.
“That doesn’t mean that the process shouldn’t go forward. It does mean that I think the public is being served well,” Niemeyer said.
Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz said that in her nearly eight years on the circuit bench, she has never seen the court with all its judgeships filled.
The nominations of Dennis Shedd of South Carolina and Terrence Boyle of North Carolina to the 4th Circuit were among the first 11 judicial nominations made by President Bush in 2001.
The Judiciary Committee has yet to hold a hearing on Boyle’s nomination. Shedd had a hearing in June, but a vote on his appointment delayed Thursday.
“He will be voted on in the next year,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., of Shedd’s nomination.
Staff members of Rep. Robert Ehrlich, R-Timonium, said that it is unlikely nominations for the two remaining empty seats — one of which has traditionally gone to a Maryland judge — will be made soon, either.
Ehrlich has led the search for potential Maryland nominees to the federal bench, but the White House has yet to ask for names for the remaining open slots, Ehrlich staffers said.
The administration and congressional Republicans have criticized the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee for holding up the nominations.
“There is a tremendous concern by the White House and by House and Senate Republicans that the unnecessary delays by Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, particularly Sen. Leahy, have, in effect, crippled the judicial system thereby slowing down the process of adjudication and incarceration,” said Steve Kreseski, Ehrlich’s chief of staff.
“Certainly enough good judges have been nominated,” Kreseski said.
But Leahy, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, dismissed criticism of his committee’s record on hearing nominations. He noted that the pace was no better when Republicans controlled the committee.
“In 15 months we did more nominations than they did in 30. I don’t know how they could complain about that,” Leahy said Thursday.
While nominations to the 4th Circuit are not likely anytime soon, Ehrlich is still developing a list of potential nominees.
Jervis S. Finney, a Baltimore attorney serving on Ehrlich’s unofficial selection committee, said he has recommended several people for a short list of potential nominees. No decisions have been made on the next nominee, Kreseski said.
Finney said the short list includes U.S. District Judge Benson Legg; Roger Titus, a past president of the Maryland State Bar Association; Rockville lawyer Ron Rubin; Brett Kavanaugh, currently in the White House Counsel’s Office; and retired U.S. District Judge James R. Miller Jr.