Tuesday, August 21, 2001

McConnell pushed Bunning's son for federal judge

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell acknowledged Monday that he and fellow Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning recommended that President Bush nominate Mr. Bunning's son, David, for a federal judgeship.

        Mr. McConnell also predicted that David Bunning and two other federal judge nominees from Kentucky — former U.S. attorney Karen Caldwell and lawyer Danny Reeves, both of Lexington — will “sail through” the nomination process.

        “I think the president made excellent selections,” Mr. McConnell said during an interview Monday morning at the Marriott hotel in Covington.

        It has been widely believed in Kentucky legal and political circles that Mr. McConnell of Louisville and Mr. Bunning, a Republican from Southgate, recommended the three nominees to Mr. Bush. The nominations were announced Aug. 2.

        But until Monday neither senator talked publicly about the process, which typically involves the president following the recommendation of a state's senators.

        “I think everyone knows how federal district judges are picked,” Mr. McConnell said.

        “Everyone who knows (David Bunning) and knows his work has given him very high recommendations, which is certainly pleasing to those of us who recommended him,” Mr. McConnell said.

        Mr. Bunning, 35, of Fort Thomas, has worked for a decade as an assistant U.S. attorney in federal district court in Covington. He has garnered rave reviews and flattering comments from attorneys and others who have worked with and against him in federal court.

        But he also has been criticized, including by the Kentucky Democratic Party, for being too young and inexperienced and because his father is a U.S. senator.

        The American Bar Association, which evaluates judicial nominees, recommends at least 12 years of practice for a lawyer to be considered qualified for the federal bench.

        Jim Bunning has not commented directly on his son's nomination. But Mr. McCon nell defended recommending David Bunning to the president.

        “The key thing is experience,” Mr. McConnell said. “The people who know (David Bunning) all think he is a great lawyer with outstanding experience.”

        The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Mr. McConnell is a member, conducts hearings on federal judge nominees.

        The date for the hearings has not been set but they will probably be held this fall, according to the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

        Mr. McConnell said he does not anticipate any questions from senators about David Bunning's relationship to his father. He said he expects Mr. Bunning to win Senate confirmation for the lifetime appointment, which pays $145,100 a year.

        Mr. McConnelltypically travels the state during Congress' August recess.

        He is also preparing for his 2002 re-election campaign. Democrat Lois Combs Weinberg plans to challenge Mr. McConnell. Louisville Democrat Charlie Owen is considering a campaign.


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