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In unusual recess action, Clinton appoints judge to federal bench

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton Wednesday used the power of a recess appointment to place Virginia litigator Roger Gregory to a seat on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Roger Gregory is the right man at the right time to fulfill this historic role. His life is a testament to the power and promise of the American dream," Clinton said.

Gregory would be the first African-American ever to serve on the circuit court, which comprises the largest African-American population of any circuit in the country.

Under the president's recess powers, Gregory can serve on the bench for up to one year. The Clinton administration will push for an immediate confirmation when the 107th Congress convenes, said White House Press Secretary Jake Siewert.

Senior White House aides also expect the Gregory appointment to provide grist for Democrats to question Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft on his commitment to civil rights and diversity on the federal bench.

The White House concedes that recess appointments to the federal bench are "highly unusual."

Clinton nominated Gregory to the bench on June 30, describing him as "highly qualified." Gregory was never granted a confirmation hearing and the White House said GOP leaders consistently objected to moving on nominations of women and minorities to the federal bench.

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In a White House news conference, U.S. President Bill Clinton announces an unusual recess appointment

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Senate GOP leaders said they handled the nominations in a deliberate fashion and never denied candidates hearings or confirmation votes on the basis of race or gender.

The Fourth Circuit covers the states of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

"The Fourth Circuit needs Roger Gregory," Clinton said. "Its caseload has increased by over 15 percent in just five years, yet ore than a quarter of its bench stands empty." The Fourth Circuit has 15 seats and four vacancies.

Gregory, 46, graduated from Virginia State University, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from high school. He obtained his law degree at the University of Michigan and returned to become an adjunct law professor at Virginia State, where his mother had once worked as a maid. Gregory was also a law partner of former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder.

"Justice may be blind," Clinton said, "but we all know that diversity in the courts, as in all aspects of society, sharpens our vision and makes us a stronger nation."


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Wednesday, December 27, 2000


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