Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, September 22, 2006


Page 1


Judiciary Committee Backs Idahoan for Ninth Circuit, Senator Dianne Feinstein Threatens Filibuster


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


The Senate Judiciary Committee approved an Idaho judge yesterday for a seat on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed to block full Senate action.

The 10-8 party line vote came after Feinstein stormed out of the committee room to try to deny a quorum to approve the nomination of state District Judge N. Randy Smith. Feinstein wants the judgeship to go to a California judge.

“This is the only way ... to give me leverage with the White House. We cannot lose another judge for California. Holding this judge in committee would send that message loudly and clearly and indicate that I have some support,” Feinstein said.

“If I have to filibuster this judge I will do so,” she said.

Smith’s nomination had also been approved by the committee in May, but he had to be renominated by the White House after the Senate recessed in August without acting on the nomination.

Prospects for full Senate action are uncertain.

If confirmed by the Senate, Smith, 56, would fill the vacancy created when Judge Stephen Trott took senior status. Bush nominated Boise attorney William G. Myers III to succeed Nelson, but Democrats have thus far prevented him from winning confirmation.

His nomination was sent to the floor by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote of 10-8 prior to the 2004 elections, but supporters came up seven votes short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. No agreement concerning Myers was reached when a bipartisan group of senators reached a compromise to avert filibusters on several other nominees.

Like Smith, he was renominated by the president after the Labor Day recess.

Idaho is currently the only state in the circuit without an active judge, as Trott took senior status at the end of 2004 and Judge Thomas Nelson did the same in November 2003.

President Bush nominated Smith, a former Idaho chairman of the Republican Party, in December of last year.

Feinstein argues that the seat should go to a Californian because Trott and his predecessors were from the state, although Trott—a former deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County and former U.S. attorney for the Central District of California—was a Justice Department official, living in Virginia, at the time of his appointment to the bench.

Feinstein has expressed no criticism of Smith’s credentials but says that if he is confirmed California will have only 13 of the circuit’s 28 judgeships despite having more than two-thirds of the cases.

Meyers and Smith were among four candidates recommended by the state’s senior senator, Republican Larry Craig, when Nelson said he was stepping down two years ago.

Smith was named to the state bench in 1995 by then-Gov. Phil Batt, under whom he served as party chair. He received undergraduate and law degrees at Brigham Young University and worked as a corporate lawyer for the J.R. Simplot Co. before going into private practice in Pocatello in 1982.


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