Senate panel approves Bennett for federal bench

Former U.S. attorney for Maryland, GOP chief expected to be confirmed

April 04, 2003|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday unanimously approved the nomination to the federal bench of Richard D. Bennett, a former U.S. attorney for Maryland who headed the state Republican Party during President Bush's 2000 campaign.

The 19-0 vote sent Bennett's name to the full Senate for confirmation, which is expected.

A white-collar criminal defense attorney, Bennett is the second Bush nominee to the U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Judge William D. Quarles took his seat late last month after Senate confirmation.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, complained yesterday of the "breakneck pace" of the panel's GOP majority in scheduling six judicial candidates for votes only a week after a hearing on their nominations.

Nevertheless, Leahy said Bennett enjoyed "strong bipartisan support" and Democrats were prepared to vote for him.

The committee approved Bennett and two others while delaying action on the remaining three.

Bennett, 55, was nominated to replace Judge Frederic N. Smalkin, who retired to senior status because of health concerns.

Long active in GOP politics, Bennett has run for the state Senate, state attorney general and lieutenant governor. He was appointed U.S. attorney by President George Bush in 1991 and served until 1993.

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