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Senate confirms Smith to Ninth Circuit appeals court

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Senate has unanimously approved another one of President Bush’s judicial nominees whose confirmation had been blocked.

Senators Feb. 15 confirmed N. Randy Smith to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a 94-0 vote. The Ninth Circuit, which generally is considered the most liberal of the federal circuits, consists of California, six other Western states, Alaska and Hawaii.

Bush first nominated Smith, a state district judge in Idaho, in December 2005. Although the Judiciary Committee approved Smith last year, Republicans were unable to carry out a confirmation vote on the Senate floor.

California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, opposed Smith’s confirmation, contending an Idaho judge should not replace a retired Ninth Circuit judge from California.

Bush cleared the way for Smith to be confirmed when he changed his approach in January in the face of a Democratic-controlled Senate. A week after renominating Smith, Bush withdrew Smith’s name, only to renominate him again the same day, Jan. 16, to a Ninth Circuit seat vacated by a judge from Idaho.

The confirmation of appeals court nominees has been a major battle between Senate Democrats and the president since shortly after Bush took office in 2001. While Democrats were in the minority, they used filibusters, parliamentary maneuvers that prevent votes if successful, to block some of his appellate nominees.

Liberals inside and outside the Senate have criticized and worked to block nominees they perceived as too conservative, especially on issues such as abortion and homosexual activism.

As a result, some nominees have asked Bush to withdraw their names in the face of lengthy confirmation fights. Most recently, Terrence Boyle, William Haynes, William Myers and Michael Wallace were not among a list of judicial nominees named Jan. 9 by the president. Haynes, Myers and Wallace asked the president to withdraw their nominations, but Boyle did not, according to a published report.

Earlier, two other appellate nominees, Miguel Estrada and Carolyn Kuhl, had asked their names be removed.

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