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 Home > News & Policies > March 2003

For Immediate Release
March 5, 2003

Press Briefing Excerpt by Ari Fleischer 10/09/02

Click here for full transcript.

The President has invited Republican members of the Judiciary Committee to the White House this afternoon to discuss the troubling developments related to the confirmation of the President's nominee to the 4th Circuit from California, Dennis Shedd.

Yesterday, Senator Leahy failed to uphold his commitment to Senator Strom Thurmond, the longest-serving member of the United States Senate, to hold a vote on Dennis Shedd before the end of the year. This promise had been made to Senator Thurmond on several occasions. Senator Thurmond yesterday said that he has never been treated in such a fashion in his 48 years in the United States Senate.

There is strong bipartisan support for Dennis Shedd both on the committee and on the floor of the Senate. The votes are there to confirm him. Judge Shedd has been rated well-qualified by the American Bar Association; he was unanimously confirmed to be a district judge 12 years ago and his reversal rate is less than 1 percent. Judge Shedd served in the United States Senate, including Chief Counsel and Staff Director for the Senate Judiciary Committee for 10 years.

The Senate has confirmed only 50 percent of President Bush's appeals court nominees in these first two years. In the past three administrations, the Senate has confirmed 90 percent of the President's appeals court nominees during the same period of time. Additionally, this Senate has forced more of the President's nominees to wait a year for action than in the past 50 years combined.

Nominees deserve to be treated with dignity; senators deserve to have their commitments upheld; and the American people deserve better, especially when there is a vacancy crisis in the United States courts.

With that, I'm happy to take your questions.

Q Why isn't he inviting Democrats, as well, to the meeting this afternoon? Wouldn't that help actually get something done, if he could talk to Leahy?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the problem lies on that side, and the President is going to talk to Republicans about how to find solutions to it.

Q Has he thought about talking to Senator Leahy?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think Senator Leahy expressed his message yesterday, when he failed to uphold a commitment that he, himself, made to Senator Thurmond. And so the President looks forward to having Senator Thurmond and the others down here today to talk about this.

Q Has the President talked to Leahy once about this issue?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think this is a question of the President talking to the Chairman of the Committee. This is a question of the Chairman of the Committee doing what he told Senator Thurmond that he would do.

Q What did he tell him?

MR. FLEISCHER: He said that he would have a vote this year. And I think this is why Senator Thurmond, who is 100 years old, who is in his last days in the Senate, as the Senate gets ready to recess, feels as strongly about it as he does. Mr. Shedd is from South Carolina, and I think that Senator Thurmond has seen a lot in his time in the Senate and he said this is one of the worst.

Q He's never seen anything like this before, though?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think he'll speak for himself.

Q He's probably seen this happen before, though.

MR. FLEISCHER: He speaks for himself on this.


Q Ari, I have two questions for you. I assume that when the President meets with the Republican senators today, he will also bring up the case of Estrada, is that correct?

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll let you know what happens in the meeting if other specific judges come up. But it's possible.

Q It is reported the President is going to keep this nomination alive. It seems to be dead in the water.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, fundamentally, it is up to the majority party in the Senate to schedule votes. And the long and short of it is the failure to act on the President's nominations means that there are courtrooms that have no judges. That is a hard way to serve justice in our country, or to serve people who expect to go to trial and have speedy trials without having to wait inordinate amount of times because there aren't enough judges to hear the cases.