[Congressional Record Volume 151, Number 54 (Thursday, April 28, 2005)]
[Pages S4477-S4479]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                           EXECUTIVE SESSION


                         STATES DISTRICT JUDGE


                         STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, the Senate will go 
into executive session.
  The clerk will report.
  The assistant legislative clerk read the nominations of James C. 
Dever, III, of North Carolina to be United States District Judge for 
the Eastern District of North Carolina; and Robert J. Conrad, Jr., of 
North Carolina, to be United States District Judge for the Western 
District of North Carolina.
  Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry: Are we now taking 
up the nominations of Robert J. Conrad and James C. Dever to be U.S. 
district judges in North Carolina?
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is correct.
  Mr. SPECTER. I am glad to hear that because I couldn't hear the clerk 
report it.
  Mr. President, I am pleased to report that the Senate Judiciary 
Committee has recommended to the full Senate on reports filed that 
Robert J. Conrad, Jr., should become U.S. district court judge for the 
Western District of North Carolina. Mr. Conrad comes to this position 
with a very distinguished record. He is a former U.S. attorney for 
North Carolina. As assistant U.S. attorney, he made a name for himself 
in the prosecution of terrorism financing cases and campaign finance. 
Attorney General Ashcroft named Mr. Conrad to the Advisory Committee on 
Terrorism Financing, and Mr. Conrad testified before the Judiciary 
Committee on that subject. He was instrumental in prosecuting 
supporters of the Hezbollah terrorist cell in North Carolina in a very 
highly celebrated case.
  Prior to his appointment as U.S. attorney, he served as an assistant 
U.S. attorney for 12 years. I can tell you, with some experience in 
that kind of position, you really learn a lot as assistant prosecuting 
attorney. Sometimes I am asked what is the best job I ever had, Senator 
or district attorney, and I say assistant district attorney. That is 
where there is a great deal of experience.
  He has had bipartisan support from Democrats. The North Carolina 
attorney general, Roy Cooper, and former Attorney General Janet Reno 
praised him very highly.
  I would now like to make a comment about the other nominee, James C. 
Dever, III, who has been recommended by the Judiciary Committee to be 
the U.S. district court judge for the Eastern District of North 
Carolina. Mr. Dever is a U.S. magistrate judge in the Eastern District. 
He comes to this position as a highly respected attorney, a magistrate 
judge, recommended to be promoted to the district court by the 
bipartisan Merit Selection Panel of district court judges of the 
Eastern District. He has a very distinguished academic record. He 
served in the Air Force for 4 years, from 1988 to 1992. He was a member 
of the Air Force General Counsel's Honors Program. He served with great 
distinction. He has been an adjunct professor at the Norman Adrian 
Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University since 1997. He clerked for 
Judge Clifford Wallace on the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 
He is rated in the highest category among lawyers by Martindale-
Hubbell. I recommend that my colleagues support both of these 
meritorious nominees, and I yield the floor.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, these confirmations will be the 207th and 
208th of 218 nominees brought before the full Senate for a vote to be 
confirmed. The Senate will have confirmed four more lifetime 
appointments to the Federal courts this year. With the year being 
almost one-third concluded, the Republican majority is gaining on the 
pace it set in 1999 when Senate Republicans allowed President Clinton 
to appoint only 17 district court judges and not a single nominee to 
the circuit courts that entire session.
  These 208 judicial confirmations mean that even with the slow start 
this year because the President has refused to nominate consensus 
nominees, or anyone for 29 judicial vacancies, we are currently within 
37 confirmations of the 6-year total achieved under the Senate 
Republican majority during the Clinton administration. That means if 
the Senate confirms another dozen judges this year and 30 next year, we 
will have equaled the total of which Senate Republicans were so proud 
during the Clinton years. The year I chaired the Judiciary Committee, 
the Senate confirmed 72 of President Bush's nominees. If the President 
and Senate Republicans would work with us rather than foment conflict 
and confrontation, we could easily surpass their record.
  Of the 45 judicial vacancies that will remain after these 
confirmations, President Bush has not even sent nominees for 29 of 
those vacancies. I have been encouraging the Bush administration to 
work with Senators to identify qualified and consensus judicial 
nominees. The Democratic leader and I sent the President a letter in 
this regard on April 5, but we have received no response. Indeed, to 
date the President has only sent the Senate one new judicial nominee 
all year.
  Despite the efforts of the Senate Republicans to create a crisis, the 
truth is that in President Bush's first term, the 204 judges confirmed 
were more than were confirmed in either of President Clinton two terms, 
more than during the term of this President's father,

[[Page S4478]]

and more than in Ronald Reagan's first term when he was being assisted 
by a Republican majority in the Senate. By last December, we had 
reduced judicial vacancies from the 110 vacancies I inherited in the 
summer of 2001 to the lowest level, lowest rate and lowest number in 
decades, since Ronald Reagan was in office.
  The two district court nominees being confirmed today, Robert Conrad 
and James Dever, are nominees who have raised concerns. When they were 
first nominated their home-State Senator had serious questions about 
them. A home-State Senator's views on a Federal court nominee has a 
long history of importance in the Senate. The Constitution says we 
should give the President advice on judicial appointments, and the 
views of home-State Senators have been very important. Candidly, I wish 
the White House had heeded Senator Edwards' advice and reconsidered 
these nominations.
  After reading some of Mr. Conrad's more inflammatory writings, I do 
not wonder at Senator Edwards' objections. In particular, I am 
concerned about what some of the things he has written say about his 
ability to be a fair judge, and to give all who come before him a fair 
hearing. Listen to what he wrote about Sister Helen Prejean, one of the 
bravest and most caring people I have ever met. He calls her book, 
``Dead Man Walking,'' ``liberal drivel,'' and shows nothing but 
contempt for her compassionate work with condemned prisoners. The 
rhetoric he uses is heated, and his bias for the death penalty is 
clear. Will any defendant in a capital case who comes before a Judge 
Conrad feel that they will get a fair hearing from him? Will he feel 
that a Judge Conrad can put aside personal prejudices and 
preconceptions? I hope so.

  Another example is the not-too-subtly titled article, ``Planned 
Parenthood, A Radical, Pro-Abortion Fringe Group.'' Mr. Conrad's view 
of the well-respected family planning organization is that it is a 
``most radical legal advocate of unfettered abortion on demand,'' and 
argues they do nothing to reduce teen pregnancy. The Planned Parenthood 
organization that I know, both in Vermont and nationally, works hard to 
reduce crisis pregnancies and to preserve families' rights to plan 
their own futures. His statements make me wonder whether any person 
going before a Judge Conrad in a case involving reproductive rights, or 
indeed any issue related to personal privacy, will feel their arguments 
have been fairly heard. Will he be able to follow the law as written? 
Again, for the sake of future litigants and the independence of our 
judiciary, I hope so.
  I have similar concerns about Judge Dever. I see why Senator Edwards 
wanted better consultation on these district court nominees. Judge 
Dever's only two Supreme Court briefs argued against State legislative 
redistricting action designed to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 
1965. When I asked Judge Dever to give me some assurance that he would 
be impartial when called upon to hear a redistricting case, he could 
only state that he believed he would be fair.
  Much of Judge Dever's experience is in the area of representing 
Republican clients. While employed at a law firm, he provided legal 
services to several Republican campaigns and has been listed on the 
Republican National Lawyers Association webpage as an affiliated 
lawyer. I would like to believe that Judge Dever was nominated based on 
his own merits, and that his personal relationships will not affect his 
ability to rule impartially if he is confirmed. I have concerns.
  I take seriously the views and support of the current North Carolina 
Senators. I hope that their support of these nominees is justified and 
that these nominees will serve in accordance with their oath to treat 
all who come before them fairly.
  Today, again, Senate Democrats are demonstrating their willingness to 
work with the President and Senate Republicans.
  I regret that in spite of all of our actions, the Republican majority 
seems intent on forcing a confrontation and breaking the Senate Rules 
in order to change them. The majority leader has apparently cast his 
lot with those who would alter the role of the Senate as a check and a 
balance on the choices of a powerful President. The Federal judiciary 
should not become an extension of the executive or a wholly-owned 
subsidiary of his political party.
  Today, Republicans are threatening to take away one of the few 
remaining checks on the power of the executive branch by their use of 
what has become knows as the nuclear option. This assault on our 
tradition of checks and balances and on the protection of minority 
rights in the Senate and in our democracy should be abandoned. 
Eliminating the filibuster by the nuclear option would destroy the 
Constitution's design of the Senate as an effective check on the 
Executive. The elimination of the filibuster would reduce any incentive 
for a President to consult with home-state Senators or seek the advice 
of the Senate on lifetime appointments to the Federal judiciary. It is 
a leap not only toward one-party rule but to an unchecked executive.
  Rather than blowing up the Senate, let us honor the constitutional 
design of our system of checks and balances and work together to fill 
judicial vacancies with consensus nominees. The nuclear option is 
unnecessary. What is needed is a return to consultation and for the 
White House to recognize and respect the role of the Senate 
appointments process.
  The American people have begun to see this threatened partisan power 
grab for what it is and to realize that the threat and the potential 
harm are aimed at our democracy, at an independent and strong Federal 
judiciary and, ultimately, at their rights and freedoms. As we proceed 
to confirm two more lifetime appointments to the Federal courts, I urge 
Senate Republicans to reconsider and not to head down the destructive 
path represented by the nuclear option.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Who yields time?
  Mr. SPECTER. I yield the remainder of time on this side to the 
Senators from North Carolina, Senator Dole and Senator Burr, to be 
divided equally.
  Mrs. DOLE. Mr. President, it is my privilege to support Jim Dever for 
a seat on the U.S. district court in Eastern North Carolina. This seat 
has been vacant for 6 years and is considered a judicial emergency by 
the Judicial Conference. In fact, a vote for Jim Dever will end the 
longest district court vacancy in the United States. Jim Dever, who is 
an outstanding editor in chief of the Duke University law Journal, 
lives in Raleigh and currently serves as U.S. magistrate judge in the 
Eastern District of North Carolina.
  Raleigh, the State's capital and the district's largest city, is 
without a resident district court judge. Elevating Jim to the district 
court will end this problem. Not one objection has been raised about 
Jim Dever's qualifications. He has broad bipartisan support. Robinson 
Everett, a Duke law professor and former Chief Judge of the Court of 
Appeals for the Armed Forces, describes Jim Dever as having ``all the 
requisite qualities.'' ``He will be a `superb jurist.'''
  I am also delighted to support Bob Conrad, nominated in April 2003, 
to be U.S. district judge for the Western District of North Carolina. 
Bob is sorely needed. As our courts confront the ramifications of the 
Supreme Court's recent decision on the Federal minimum sentence 
guidelines, it is reasonable to expect we will have even higher 
caseloads and need more judges to deal with them.
  Bob Conrad is known for his prosecution of the cigarette smuggling 
ring funding the terrorist group Hezbollah, and in 1999, Bob Conrad was 
appointed by then-Attorney General Janet Reno to head the U.S. Justice 
Department's investigation into campaign fundraising abuses.
  Bob is a graduate of Clemson and the University of Virginia Law 
School. He served as a Federal prosecutor in Charlotte, starting in 
1989. From 2001 until 2004, he was the U.S. attorney for the Western 
District of North Carolina. Currently he is in private practice at one 
of the largest law firms in the world as a partner in its Charlotte 
  Both of these North Carolina nominees come with tremendous 
credentials, and it is my privilege to give them my strong support.
  I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from North Carolina
  Mr. BURR. Mr. President, I also rise in support of two fine and 
highly qualified individuals to be confirmed to the

[[Page S4479]]

Federal bench, Robert Conrad to be a U.S. District Court Judge for the 
Western District of North Carolina and James Dever to be U.S. District 
Court Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
  Bob Conrad was nominated by the President on April 28, 2003. Bob 
Conrad is now a partner at the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe, and Maw 
in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has served as a U.S. Attorney for the 
Western District of North Carolina. He is a graduate of Clemson 
University and the University of Virginia Law School.
  Bob Conrad possesses the qualities necessary to serve as a U.S. 
District Court Judge. He is fairminded, evenhanded, and treats all with 
respect. He has repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to public service 
and a spirit of impartiality and cooperation. Bob is also a devoted 
husband to his wife Ann, and he is a loving father to his five 
  Today, we consider his nomination for the Western District Court 
judgeship for the great State of North Carolina. I believe Bob Conrad's 
integrity, compassion, and intelligence have earned him strong 
bipartisan support, and he will again serve ably as a representative of 
our country. I am pleased that almost 2 years since his nomination, Bob 
Conrad will be confirmed by the Senate.
  President Bush has also nominated James Dever to be U.S. District 
Court Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina on May 22, 2002. 
After almost 3 years, James Dever's nomination is now reaching the 
floor for a vote. He served as U.S. Magistrate Judge on the U.S. 
District Court for the Eastern District for North Carolina since 2004. 
Prior to that, the judge was a member of the Raleigh law firm of Maupin 
Taylor, and Judge Dever graduated with high honors from Notre Dame, 
where he attended on a 4-year ROTC scholarship. Judge Dever also 
graduated with high honors from Duke University Law School, where he 
was editor and chief of the Duke Law Journal. Judge Dever also served 
his country in the U.S. Air Force.
  The Eastern District post to which Judge Dever has been nominated is 
the longest district court vacancy in the nation. In fact, it has been 
vacant since 1997. In 1999, the Administrative Office of the Courts 
declared the district as a judicial emergency, and it has been 
categorized that way for the last 6 years.
  For some time, the State of North Carolina has felt the absence of 
U.S. District Court Judges. However, the Eastern District in 
particular, which comprises almost half of the counties in North 
Carolina and has over 3 million people, has arguably suffered the most.
  James Dever will bring to this post the qualities and character that 
will continue to make North Carolinians proud of him. James Dever is 
highly regarded by his colleagues and he has a record of public 
service. He is a bright, accomplished individual with a proven record. 
His supportive family includes his loving wife Amy and their three 

  Today I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of these two esteemed 
attorneys. North Carolina, and the United States as a whole, will 
benefit substantially from the confirmation of these well-respected men 
to the Federal bench.
  I yield back all time and call for the question.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. If all time is yielded back, the question is, 
Will the Senate advise and consent to the nominations en bloc of James 
C. Dever, III, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern 
District of North Carolina, and of Robert J. Conrad, Jr., to be United 
States District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina.
  The nominations were confirmed, en bloc.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The President will be immediately notified of 
the Senate's action.