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Senate cuts off debate on nominee to federal court


WASHINGTON - The Senate ended the filibuster of California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown yesterday when 10 Democrats crossed party lines and voted to close debate, clearing the way for a confirmation vote today on her nomination to the second-most powerful court in the country.

The motion to end debate passed 65-32, more than the 60 votes required.

Brown is expected to be the second long-stalled judicial nominee confirmed after a bipartisan group of maverick and traditionalist senators cut a deal last month to break an impasse over confirming President Bush's picks for the federal courts.

Bush nominated Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the main appeals court for government-related litigation. The court is often seen as a steppingstone to the Supreme Court.

With a 55-seat majority in the 100-member chamber, Republicans have enough votes to confirm Brown unless they break ranks.

During debate yesterday, Democrats urged their Republican colleagues to abandon the party's position and vote against Brown, whom they repeatedly described as "out of the mainstream." They accused her of infusing her court decisions with conservative ideology and opposing most forms of government regulation.

"I would hope that Republican senators would look at Janice Rogers Brown for what she really is," Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said after the vote. "I don't know if I've ever known a more activist member of the judiciary, anyplace."

Democrats had blocked a confirmation vote on Brown since November 2003 by refusing to end debate. Last month, seven Democrats joined with seven Republicans and agreed not to continue the filibuster on Brown and several other judges, including Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who was confirmed last month to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

After Brown, three more judicial nominations are on the Senate docket this week.

"The reason we're spending this whole week on judges is to demonstrate that we have returned, now, to where we were before the last Congress: fair up-or-down vote," said Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. "And you'll see it today; you'll see it tomorrow; you'll see it the next day."

The fate of two other nominees - William Myers to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, and Henry Saad to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati - was not addressed by the compromise. They are not yet on the Senate calendar, Frist said.

"I want to make sure the process works," he said. "It worked with Priscilla Owen. It is working with Janice Rogers Brown."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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