WASHINGTON -- The Senate yesterday confirmed one of its former lawyers, Thomas B. Griffith, to sit on the US Appeals Court, the sixth judge it has elevated to the federal appellate court in the last month.
With a 73-to-24 vote, Griffith becomes the newest judge on the US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia Circuit, taking a seat that the Bush administration originally wanted for lawyer Miguel Estrada, who was blocked by Democrats.
Estrada dropped out in September 2003, and President Bush replaced him in June 2004 with Griffith, who was the chamber's general counsel during President Clinton's impeachment before joining Brigham Young University as general counsel in 2003.
Former Judiciary chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, called Griffith ''an excellent nominee for this extremely important federal court."
Democrats have opposed Griffith, although Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada offered to bring Griffith's nomination up for a vote during the chamber's deadlock over whether to ban the judicial filibuster.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Judiciary Democrat, said Griffith's refusal to get a Utah law license should have disqualified him from the court.
Griffith said he doesn't have the license because he never thought he needed it for his job at Brigham Young University. Griffith also took the blame for losing his D.C. law license, by not paying bar association dues. He got the license back by paying them.
''Mr. Griffith has forgone at least 10 opportunities to take the bar in Utah and has continued to refuse . . . He appears to think he is above the law," Leahy said.