Who does President Bush get to take Miguel Estrada's place in line for a spot on the D.C. court of appeals? A Utah lawyer who has been practicing without a license for years, naturally. The Washington Post reports today that Thomas Griffith, general counsel for Brigham Young University and darling of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, let his bar membership lapse in Washington and never bothered to get a license when he moved to Utah. "This moves it for me from the realm of negligence to the realm of willfulness," Mark Foster, an attorney who represents lawyers in ethics matters, told the Washington Post. "People who thumb their noses at the rules of the bar shouldn't be judges."
How are Bush's other judicial nominees faring? A conservative Michigan judge up for a spot on the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals got past the Senate Judiciary Committee last week despite heavy Democratic opposition -- including from both of Michigans senators. The 10-9 vote went, typically, straight down party lines.
But even though Senate Republicans managed to ram one of their less-than-mainstream appointees through Judiciary, the threat of another Democratic filibuster continues to deter the confirmation of Bushs most noxiously conservative judicial nominees. Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl and Janice Rogers Brown remain in procedural limbo after the president in May not to make any more "recess appointments" -- a seldom-used presidential power that lets judges sit on the bench temporarily without Senate confirmation. Bush used this trick earlier this year to put Charles Pickering and William Pryor in prominent appeals court seats despite their more than questionable records on the separation of church and state, states' rights and abortion rights.