Friday, December 23, 2005
Senate Confirms Seven Judges in Waning Hours of Session
But Nomination of Controversial Justice Department Official Is Returned to Bush
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
The Senate, rushing to adjourn for the year, has confirmed seven federal court nominees.
The seven were confirmed late Wednesday with voice votes and little debate. They are U.S. Attorney Timothy Mark Burgess, who will be a U.S. district for the District of Alaska; Joseph F. Bianco and Eric N. Vitaliano, who will sit in the Eastern District of New York; U.S. Attorney Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, who will serve in the Eastern District of Kentucky; Kristi Dubose, who goes from magistrate judge to district judge for the Southern District of Alabama; Assistant U.S. Attorney Virginia M. Kendall, who will sit in the Northern District of Illinois; W. Keith Watkins, who will be a district judge for the Middle District of Alabama.
As it traditionally does during the odd-numbered year, the Senate unanimously agreed to hold over a number of nominations for consideration next year—including those of Idahoans Randy Smith and William G. Myers III for the Ninth Circuit and U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Larson for district judge in the Central District of California. But it was unable to reach such an agreement with respect to Justice Department official and D.C. Circuit nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose nomination was returned to the White House.
Kavanaugh’s Democratic critics say he lacks experience and is overly partisan, citing his work for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and his role in sending a number of controversial Court of Appeals nominees to the Senate. The president can resubmit the nomination once the Senate returns to session early next year.
Burgess, 49, has served as U.S. attorney for Alaska since October 2001 and was nominated by Bush for that position, too. Before that, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the state for 12 years.
Burgess went to Alaska in 1976 on a basketball scholarship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He earned a bachelor’s degree two years later, followed by a master’s degree in business administration in 1982.
Before getting a law degree from Northeastern University in Boston in 1987, Burgess worked as an aide to then-Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska.
During law school, Burgess worked for Fairbanks attorney Charlie Cole, who later became state attorney general under Gov. Walter Hickel. In the late 1980s, Burgess worked in private practice in Anchorage.
He is the second Bush nominee for the Alaska District Court. In March 2002, Ralph Beistline was confirmed by Congress after working as a Fairbanks attorney and state Superior Court judge.
Tatenhove will switch from prosecutor to judge after winning Senate approval to join the federal bench, which he called a “dream job” yesterday
Van Tatenhove said he will handle cases primarily out of Pikeville once he leaves the prosecutor’s office to become a federal judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky.
The University of Kentucky law school graduate won Senate confirmation late Wednesday to fill a vacancy created when Judge Karl Forester took senior status.
Van Tatenhove, 45, has been U.S. attorney for the eastern half of Kentucky since 2001. His legal resume includes four years as a trial attorney for the U.S. Justice Department.
“I look forward to a long period of service on the federal bench,” he said.
Van Tatenhove also served as an assistant to Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell before attending law school and later as a top aide to another Kentucky Republican — Rep. Ron Lewis.
“Greg will do an outstanding job and I am confident he will serve the citizens of Kentucky with distinction,” McConnell said in a statement.
Van Tatenhove said he expected to assume the judgeship sometime in early January.
When Van Tatenhove was nominated in September for the judgeship, there was some criticism in the eastern Kentucky mountains that a local lawyer hadn’t been chosen.
Van Tatenhove is a native of Wilmore in central Kentucky.
“It’s more a matter of regional pride up here,” Pikeville attorney Larry Webster said Thursday. “Van Tatenhove seems like a good man and he’s done a lot. But there are plenty of good men up here who deserve to be federal judges and they’re not considered.”
Kendall had bipartisan support for her appointment, having been recommended by Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Dick Durbin along with GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
Kendall, an Illinois native, has been a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago since 1995. She prosecuted the nation’s first Internet kidnapping case and led the prosecution of former insurance mogul Michael “Mickey” Segal, who received a 10-year prison sentence last month after being convicted of siphoning money from his brokerage firm.
She also has been an adjunct professor at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law since 1993.
Vitaliano was a state legislator from Staten Island before his election to a state trial court. His appointment also had bipartisan support, from Republican Gov. George Pataki and Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat who has worked with the governor and the White House to secure approval of a number of nominees from the state.
DuBose, 41, is a longtime protege of Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions. She will sit in Mobile.
The other Alabama appointee, Watkins, practices in Troy and will sit in Montgomery.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company