By Janelle Poore
Utah State Senator Orrin Hatch”s strong support and approval of U.S. Court of Appeals nominee, Thomas Griffith, has some politicians worried that Hatch may be favoring a Utahn at the expense of other judiciary nominees.
Griffith, legal counsel for BYU and former Senate counsel, is one of 25 judicial nominees made by President Bush, that are moving through the senate floor for approval.
“Senator Hatch thinks Mr. Griffith is an outstanding lawyer who should be confirmed and would do an excellent job on the circuit,” said Margarita Tapia, spokeswoman for Hatch. “He continues to believe all judicial nominees that reach the floor deserve the same up or down vote the constitution requires.”
The nomination is a potentially powerful and influential appointment. The D.C. Circuit Court is considered second only to the U.S. Supreme Court in terms of its ability to influence Washington.
Because the D.C. Circuit is responsible for regulatory agencies, Tapia said nominations made to the D.C. Circuit are particularly important to the public.
It is not entirely uncommon, however, for certain nominees to be pushed by politicians, at the state and federal level.
“When we know people that would be well-suited for the job, we are always willing to mention their names and ask that they be considered,” said Ron Allen, Utah State Senate Minority Whip.
Hatch and Griffith met while Griffith served as legal counsel for the senate. Griffith served in that capacity from 1995 until 1999 when he became legal counsel for BYU. Prior to serving in the Senate, Tapia said Hatch did not know Griffith.
Some politicians say Hatch is focusing his efforts to see that the Griffith nomination will pass through Congress, leaving little time for the other nominees to move forward.
“He”s pushing his guy at the expense of moving Mr. Bush”s nominees,” said one Republican Judiciary staffer in a Washington Times article.
Although some believe favoritism is common in Washington, Tapia said Hatch is working hard for all nominees to pass through the floor and that all nominees are qualified for appointment.
Allen is certain whichever nominee is ultimately appointed will have proved themselves as an able and well-equipped candidate throughout the appointment process.
“I don”t know in recent history if we”ve had anyone specifically push individual judges as much as they”ve challenged the appointment,” Allen said. “To become a judge … has become more difficult in the last couple years. I”ve watched the judiciary committee become much more critical of appointments and challenge candidates much more thoroughly.”