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Estrada Gets Support From Latino Coalition

Supporters of appeals court judicial nominee Miguel Estrada plan to run ads in several states represented by wavering Democrats in an effort to break a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

"This is a very serious issue for our community and no politician can take this quietly," Robert de Posada of The Latino Coalition said Wednesday, announcing plans for radio spots in Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and the District of Columbia.

If confirmed, Estrada would be the first Hispanic judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Ads also were planned for Nebraska and North Carolina. A rally was held Wednesday in New York and more public events were being organized, including one in Miami.

President Bush, who nominated the Washington lawyer in May 2001, has accused Democrats of "shameful politics" in holding up a confirmation vote. Democrats say Estrada has not been forthcoming about his judicial philosophy and that too little is known about a man who would join an important appeals court viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

Democrats began a filibuster on the nomination last week, before the Senate left for a recess. They plan to keep up their resistance when the Senate returns next week.

Republicans have the 51 votes needed to confirm Estrada but not the 60 votes to end a filibuster. Democrats said last week that 44 Democratic senators have agreed to keep the filibuster going, with Sens. John Breaux of Louisiana, Zell Miller of Georgia and Ben Nelson of Nebraska against the stalling tactic and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas on the fence.

Republicans said the ad campaigns would also be aimed at Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Estrada supporters say Landrieu reversed herself after appearing to support Estrada in a Spanish-language radio ad run during her recent re-election campaign. Landrieu has said the ad misinterpreted her neutrality on the Estrada nomination.

Several major Hispanic groups, such as the League of Latin American Citizens and the National Hispanic Bar Association, back Estrada. Others, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have voiced opposition.

Estrada's supporters, at a news conference, challenged Democratic complaints that too little was known of Estrada's legal record, presenting a 2-foot high stack of legal briefs involving Estrada.

"Here is a substantial paper trail," said C. Boyden Gray, former White House counsel under the administration of Bush's father and president of Committee for Justice, a group that supports Estrada. "There's quite a lot to go on if you want to evaluate his record."

Aides to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they had reviewed the briefs and there was nothing new in the material. Democrats have sought access to internal documents from the Justice Department's solicitor general's office, where Estrada used to work. The White House has refused, saying that Justice traditionally does not release such documents.

Estrada, 41, came to the United States from Honduras as a teenager and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1986. He has practiced constitutional law and argued 15 cases before the Supreme Court.