Va. Justice Nominated to Appeals Court

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A Virginia Supreme Court justice is President Bush's pick to fill one of several vacancies on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, widely considered the most conservative federal appellate bench in the nation.

The White House announced Thursday that Bush had nominated G. Steven Agee to the Richmond, Va.-based appeals court, which has handled some of the country's biggest terrorism cases.

If confirmed by the Senate, Agee would fill the seat of J. Michael Luttig, who resigned in 2006.

"Justice Agee is an experienced attorney, dedicated public servant and respected judge," White House spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said.

Bush wants the Senate to consider Agee's nomination swiftly because heavy caseloads and the duration of vacancies have created a "judicial emergency" at the 4th Circuit, she said.

Five of the 15 seats on the court are vacant. Agee was one of several people that Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Jim Webb, D-Va., recommended to Bush after conducting a search of their own.

Confirmation of Bush's judicial nominees has caused friction between the Senate and the White House for years.

"Bush has a history of not consulting home-state senators or seeking consensus nominees, so Agee's nomination is a healthy sign," said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. "Bush should consult more often and select consensus nominees."

Tobias said it's unclear, however, whether there will be time for Bush's nominee to be confirmed. Judicial nominees must go through security checks, American Bar Association evaluations and Senate hearings and votes.

Typically, "appointments slow down in an election year and stop after the (political) conventions," Tobias said. "If the Virginia senators push, Agee could be confirmed, though he would have to move ahead of a number in the queue."

Bush has accused the Senate of dragging its feet on his judicial nominees.

The White House says there are 11 circuit court nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. The current Congress has confirmed only six circuit court judges while the Senate has confirmed an average of 17 circuit court judges in the final two years of the past three administrations, according to the White House.

Agee, 55, a native of Roanoke, Va., was an associate and partner in several private law firms before becoming a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a position he held from 1982 to 1994. From 2001 to 2003, he was a judge on the Virginia Court of Appeals and since 2003 has been a justice on the Virginia Supreme Court.

Agee, who is married with one child, is a graduate of the University of Virginia and New York University schools of law.

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