Posted Aug 08, 2007 01:40 pm CDT
Vacancies have loosened conservatives’ grip on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Va.
With five vacancies, the court is now evenly divided between five Republican and five Democratic appointees, the Washington Post reports. If a Democrat becomes president, and the party also retains control of the Senate, the court will likely begin leaning to the left.
No other federal appeals court has as many outstanding vacancies, the Associated Press reports.
The split may mean that a June decision in a terrorism case written by moderate Judge Diana Gribbon Motz will stand, the Post says. She ruled the government cannot indefinitely detain an alleged enemy combatant who is a U.S. citizen. The administration plans to seek an en banc rehearing, but it will be difficult to get the six votes it needs.
Republicans have criticized President Bush for failing to make the vacancies a priority. Two Bush nominees were withdrawn when Democrats gained control of the Senate.
Legal Times quotes experts who say Bush’s window of opportunity to fill judicial vacancies is shrinking, and he may be forced to nominate consensus choices.