Friday, August 03, 2001

David Bunning put up for federal judgeship

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — David Bunning, an assistant U.S. attorney in Covington and son of U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning of Southgate, was nominated Thursday for a federal judgeship by President Bush.

        If confirmed by the Senate for the lifetime appointment, Mr. Bunning will replace William O. Bertelsman, the U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky who is based at the federal courthouse in Covington. Judge Bertelsman, 65, is retiring this year.

        Mr. Bunning, 35, a Fort Thomas resident and one of nine children of Jim and Mary Bunning, has worked as an assistant federal prosecutor for 10 years.

        Covington lawyer Phil Taliaferro said many in the legal community feared that “we were going to get somebody crammed down our throats who wasn't from Northern Kentucky” for the judgeship.

        “So I'm really excited about David Bunning,” Mr. Taliaferro said. “He's a trial lawyer. He knows what he's doing in the courtroom. He'll do a fantastic job.”

        Jim Bunning, a Republican who served six terms in the U.S. House before winning election to the Senate in 1998, issued a joint statement with Kentucky's other senator, Republican Mitch McConnell of Louisville.

        “All three of these candidates perfectly fit the model that the president has said he wants to follow in filling judicial vacancies — competent, qualified individuals who will firmly apply the law, and who will interpret the Constitution, not try to rewrite it,” the senators said.

        Jon Deuser, Jim Bunning's spokesman, would not comment when asked if the senator recommended that the president nominate his son.

        But both Jim Bunning and Mr. McConnell have said they would make recommendations on the nominations to the president. Neither has ever said whom they could recommend.

        David Bunning's appointment has been rumored for months. Some Democrats have privately complained about the possibility of a senator using his influence to have his son nominated for the federal bench.

        But Thursday one of Northern Kentucky's top Democrats, Edgewood lawyer Mark Guilfoyle, had nothing but praise for the younger Mr. Bunning.

        “It's an outstanding nomination,” Mr. Guilfoyle said. “Dave Bunning is not just qualified, he's eminently qualified ... and he's pretty well seen everything that a federal judge has to deal with.”

        However, Susan Dixen, spokesperson for the Kentucky Democratic Party, accused the president of playing politics with Mr. Bunning's nomination.

        “In nominating a senator's son for the federal bench, Bush seems to be polarizing and politicizing a position that should remain completely nonpartisan,” Ms. Dixen said.

        Fort Mitchell lawyer Rick Robinson, a former aide to Jim Bunning, is close to David Bunning and said he will make “an excellent judge”.

        Mr. Bunning appears to fall short of American Bar Association qualification guidelines for the appointment.

        The ABA, which evaluates federal judicial candidates as part of the Senate confirmation process, recommends that ordinarily a nominee have at least 12 years in practice before a lawyer is considered qualified. Mr. Bunning has been a lawyer since October 1991.

        Mr. Bush has said he would no longer follow the practice of his predecessors of asking the ABA to rate his judicial nominees. Senate Democrats, however, have indicated they will place some weight on the ABA guidelines, which could influence the Bunning confirmation.

        Former U.S. Attorney Joseph Famularo, Mr. Bunning's boss for eight years, said Mr. Bunning compiled more federal courtroom experience than many lawyers do in twice the time, or more.

        Mr. Bunning prosecuted several major drug cases, as well as white-collar crime, said Mr. Famularo, who was appointed by President Clinton.

        Mr. Bunning's nomination was one of 16 for the federal judiciary that the White House announced Thursday.

        Mr. Bush made two other nominations Thursday for the federal bench in Kentucky. One is to replace a retiring judge, the other for a new judgeship that has been created by Congress. The nominees:

        • Karen Caldwell, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District now in private legal practice in Lexington.

        • Danny Reeves, a partner in a Lexington law firm who served as a law clerk for federal Judge Eugene Siler Jr. He is a 1981 graduate of the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University.


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