Washington Two attorneys and a bankruptcy judge are under White House consideration for the vacant federal judgeship in Kansas, The Associated Press has learned.
Candidates submitted to the Bush administration are Wichita attorney Eric Melgren, Overland Park attorney Bruce Keplinger and U.S. bankruptcy Judge Julie A. Robinson, according to a GOP congressional source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The White House has asked senators to suggest three names for each judgeship. Bush must make the nomination, although nominees are customarily recommended by a state's senior senator, who shepherds a candidate through Senate confirmation.
As the state's senior senator, Republican Sam Brownback named the three for White House consideration in an April 24 letter to Bush that was also signed by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the source said.
However, Brownback spokesman Erik Hotmire refused to confirm the recommendations, saying the senator will wait for a presidential announcement. Neither senator would provide a copy of the letter.
To advise him on candidates for judicial jobs including U.S. attorney and U.S. Marshal Brownback in February formed an eight-member advisory panel. The judicial candidates were listed alphabetically, the source said, and Brownback did not indicate a preference.
Already under consideration for U.S. attorney, several sources have said, is former state Rep. Phill Kline, who lost a heated race to unseat Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore in the the 3rd District, which includes Lawrence.
However, Bush has not yet announced his intention to nominate Kline.
The last such vacancy was filled in 1999 and went to U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia, who had been a Wyandotte County district judge.
President Clinton tried unsuccessfully to fill the current vacancy, nominating attorney Gary Sebelius for the job in 2000. Sebelius is married to Democratic state Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius. But his nomination died because Brownback apparently refused to let it move forward.
At the time, Senate Republicans were blocking Clinton nominees as he finished his term and they eyed the possibility of regaining the White House. Now a similar dispute is raging in the Senate Judiciary Committee over whether Democrats can block Bush's upcoming nominees. Brownback is among the panel's members.
Among the candidates for the Kansas vacancy, Melgren practices with the Wichita firm of Foulston and Siefkin and has been involved with and contributed to Brownback's campaigns, according to Federal Election Commission records. he holds a 1985 law degree from Washburn University in Topeka.
Keplinger, of Norris, Keplinger and Herman, holds a 1977 law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Robinson has been a U.S. Bankruptcy judge in Topeka since 1994 and previously spent 10 years as an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas. She holds a 1981 law degree from Kansas University.