Underplayed Story of the Day

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Way back on A14 of the NYT is this scoop by Nick Lewis giving us the name of President Obama’s first appeals court appointment: David F. Hamilton of Indiana, whom Lewis describes as highly regarded and moderate. Also significant is the fact that Obama intends to announce his appointments one at a time, rather than in a large group, as President Bush did. Bush’s action sent a signal that he meant to give the courts an ideological makeover. So why is all of this so important?:

The administration official said part of the reason for making the Hamilton nomination the administration’s first public entry into the often contentious field of judicial selection was to serve “as a kind of signal” about the kind of nominees Mr. Obama will select. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the nomination had not been officially made.

The White House is planning to announce a handful of other candidates over the next few weeks to fill some of the 17 vacancies on the appeals courts, which are just below the level of the Supreme Court. On most of the 12 regional appeals courts, including on the Seventh Circuit for which Judge Hamilton has been nominated, a majority of the sitting judges were appointed by Republican presidents.

Mr. Obama’s selections will be closely watched to see what role he tries to play in shaping the ideology of the federal courts, which have influence over some of the nation’s most intensely felt social issues. The administration official said the White House was hoping to reduce the partisan contentiousness of judicial confirmation battles of recent years.

“We would like to put the history of the confirmation wars behind us,” the official said.