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Senate OKs New Federal Appeals Judge

Thomas Griffith worked for the chamber before taking a job at Brigham Young University.

June 15, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed one of its former lawyers, Thomas B. Griffith, to sit on the U.S. appeals court -- the sixth person it has elevated to the federal appellate court in the last month.

With a 73-24 vote, Griffith becomes the newest judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, taking a seat that the Bush administration originally wanted for filibustered lawyer Miguel A. Estrada.

Estrada dropped out in September 2003 after being blocked by Democrats. President Bush replaced him in June 2004 with Griffith, who was the chamber's general counsel during President Clinton's impeachment before joining Brigham Young University as general counsel in 2003.

"Tom is an accomplished and experienced lawyer who will bring a broad range of legal experience to the court," Bush said in a statement. "He has served in the important post of Senate legal counsel, as general counsel at a major university and in private practice."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Judiciary Democrat, said Griffith's refusal to get a law license in Utah, where he worked as a lawyer, should have disqualified him from the court.

Griffith said he didn't have a Utah license because he never thought he needed it for his job at Brigham Young. He also took the blame for losing his D.C. law license by not paying bar association dues. He got the license back by paying what he owed.

"Mr. Griffith has foregone at least 10 opportunities to take the bar in Utah, and has continued to refuse to do so during the pendency of his nomination," Leahy said. "In this regard he appears to think he is above the law. That is not the kind of person who should be entrusted with a lifetime appointment to a federal court and, least of all, to such an important court as the D.C. Circuit, which is entrusted with protecting the rights of all Americans."

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