05.20.08

Senate Confirms Agee For Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals

The Senate today unanimously confirmed the nomination of G. Steven Agee for a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  It is the second appellate confirmation this year, and the sixth judicial nomination to be confirmed by the Senate.  Earlier today, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) spoke on the Senate floorabout the Agee nomination and the Committee’s continued work in reducing vacancies on the Federal bench.

Agee was nominated by the President to fill a long-standing vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  After a series of failed nominations to the circuit, including that of Jim Haynes, Claude Allen and most recently Duncan Getchell, the President worked with Virginia Senators John Warner (R) and Jim Webb (D).  Following recommendations made by Warner and Webb, Agee, a Justice on the Virginia Supreme Court, was nominated in March.  Leahy expedited the Committee’s consideration of the Agee nomination, and scheduled a hearing for the nomination on May 1.  The Committee voted to report the nomination to the Senate on May 15.  The President sent a second nomination to the Senate earlier this month to fill the final Virginia vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“Today, we witness a demonstration of the progress about which I have been speaking and for which I have been working,” said Leahy.  “I continue in this Congress, and I will continue with a new President in the next Congress, to work with Senators from both sides of the aisle to ensure that the Federal judiciary remains independent, and able to provide justice to all Americans, without fear or favor.”

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing May 7 on nominations to fill the final two vacancies on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The nominations, sent to the Senate in April, are the result of a deal reached by the White House and Michigan Senators Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D), and break a long standing impasse on the Sixth Circuit dating back more than a decade. 

Vacancy rates on the Federal bench are the lowest in over a decade, and circuit court vacancies have been reduced by 66 percent during the Bush administration, from 32 to 11.  With the Agee confirmation, there are fewer vacancies on 10 of the 13 Federal circuit benches, and seven circuits are without a single vacancy.

The Committee has held seven nominations hearings this year.  The Senate has confirmed 46 judicial nominations in this Congress, and 30 nominations for high ranking positions at the Department of Justice.  

Three additional judicial nominations are pending on the Senate’s executive calendar, and the Committee is expected to vote on two judicial nominations during a business meeting Thursday.

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