Chief Judge William Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit recently announced he would step down in June. This will create a fifth opening on the court. As Legal Times reports, the Bush Administration has likely lost the opportunity to place its stamp on this federal court of appeals.
The large number of vacancies during a Republican administration is particularly striking given the 4th Circuit’s reputation as one of the most stalwart conservative courts in the nation. The circuit, which covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North and South Carolina, also is the key appellate arena for the administration’s terrorism cases, largely prosecuted in the Eastern District of Virginia.
“You’d think they’d want to fill them and fill them as quickly as possible,” says Arthur Hellman, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
While two of the President’s nominees to the Fourth (Haynes & Boyle) languished due to resistance in the Senate, the administration has been slow in forwarding nominees for the other openings. Now that Democrats control the Senate, confirming solid nominees to the Fourth is not going to get any easier.