In Rhode Island, the Providence Journal and Fox Television are reporting that the president has taken no action on a judge recommended eight months ago by Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee to fill an anticipated vacancy on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Senator Chafee recommended Robert Flanders Jr. – a former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice – in March, but since that time, the president has not acted on the suggestion, ignoring the Republican senator. When Senator Chafee leaves office in January, President Bush will have even less incentive to move forward on this recommendation.
Meanwhile, according to the Seattle Times, the president has spurned the recommendations of a bipartisan group of attorneys which selects candidates for the Washington federal courts based on merit. “[S]ince 1997, the president has picked his nominee from among three names chosen by such panels.” But President Bush has never been afraid to abandon traditions:
The White House, in an unprecedented move, rejected all three candidates for the [recent] Tacoma [district court] vacancy [which has been open since March 2005]. The office of White House Counsel Harriet Miers told the bipartisan panel that none of the candidates was sufficiently qualified and asked for three more nominees. The decision troubled many local lawyers and judges who know the three spurned finalists. Sources close to the selection process, speaking on condition of anonymity, called the White House decision “appalling,” “outrageous” and a “travesty.” Republicans and Democrats alike said the candidates rejected by the White House were eminently qualified. One, confirmed by sources as Karen Strombom, is already a federal magistrate judge in Tacoma.Nevertheless, in August the panel recommended three additional judges as possible candidates to fill the vacancy. President Bush has not acted on these recommendations either, however, and many are fearful that the president will likewise reject these latest recommendations. (Yesterday, President Bush nominated Benjamin Hale Settle to fill the vacancy in the district court in Tacoma. It is not clear whether Mr. Settle was one of this second group of recommendations made by the panel.) A similar situation is unfolding with respect to a Seattle district court seat, open since July -- the president has yet taken no action on the panel's recommendations for the vacancy.
Repeat: President Bush has declined to nominate (1) a former state Supreme Court Justice recommended by a home-state Republican, and (2) candidates selected by a merit commission. Could it be that the president is put off by the fact that Justice Flanders is the choice of a moderate Republican, and the fact that the Washington panel is bipartisan in its make-up? Just as in his recent decision to renominate six controversial nominees, the president has again proven that he cares little about appointing qualified judges or filling federal court vacancies, and cares first and foremost about pleasing his radical base.