Senate Panel Approves One, Delays Three Judicial Nominees

A Senate committee voted 11-8 Thursday to approve an Ohio judicial nominee whose selection had been criticized by advocates for the disabled.

President Bush's nomination of Ohio lawyer Jeffrey Sutton now goes to the full Senate, where Republicans hold a two-vote advantage.

The committee postponed decisions on three other nominees, including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Deborah Cook.

The votes were delayed until the next committee meeting because Democrats wanted more time to review the choices. A date wasn't set.

Sutton and Cook were nominated to serve on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which covers federal appeals from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan.

The pair, along with Maryland lawyer John Roberts, had been scheduled for confirmation hearings almost two years ago, before Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont defected from the GOP and threw Senate control to the Democrats.

Now the Republicans are back in charge. Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had said he would use his one-vote advantage on the committee to push Bush's judicial nominees quickly to the Senate.

Sutton has been criticized for trying to weaken federal civil rights protections, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Dozens of disabled people protested his nomination in the hallways of Congress.

At his confirmation hearing Jan. 29, Democrats spent most of their time grilling Sutton about legal stands he has taken on behalf of his clients.

Sutton, who defended a convicted killer who was executed Wednesday in Ohio, told the panel he has represented all types of people and organizations and it's possible they would disapprove of some of his clients.

"I'm trying very hard to show you that I would be an objective judge and that the client I would have is ... the rule of law, not a former client," he said.

An Ohio county judge nominated for the U.S. District Court in Columbus also had been poised to win committee approval Thursday. Gregory L. Frost has been a Licking County Common Pleas judge since 1990 and previously was a municipal court judge and assistant county prosecutor.

Roberts is up for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which handles most federal cases in the nation's capital.

A vote also has been scheduled on Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee of Nevada, who is seeking a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.