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The Daily Tar Heel

Professor Up for 4th Circuit

"I am very honored that the senator has recommended me," said Gibson, a Chapel Hill resident originally from Raleigh. "I think (the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) is a great court, and it would be a great honor."

But Gibson's appointment faces several challenging obstacles. Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., has already blocked one N.C. nominee, and Congress, which must approve judicial recommendations, is expected to adjourn soon.

Gibson has previous experience working with the 4th Circuit - her first job out of law school was as a law clerk for one of its judges.

She said the process of filling seats on the appeals court begins with recommendations of candidates, such as Edwards' nomination.

Once recommendations for these positions are made, the current president nominates selected candidates to the Senate, which confirms the presidential nominations.

The 15-member 4th Circuit Appeals Court currently has five vacancies and no representatives from North Carolina, the largest of the five Southern states from which the court hears cases.

No one from North Carolina has sat on the 4th Circuit since the death of Judge Sam J. Ervin III of Morganton more than a year ago.

"Senator Edwards thinks it would be important to have a North Carolinian on the court," said Michael Briggs, Edwards' press secretary.

President Bill Clinton previously nominated North Carolinian James A. Wynn to the 4th Circuit, but Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., blocked the nomination.

One senator can block a nomination if the nominee is from his or her own state. Critics speculate that even if Clinton approves Gibson, her appointment could be blocked by Helms.

But Briggs said he hopes Helms will not step in regarding Gibson's nomination. "A true judiciary conservative would leave matters up to the judicial board," he said.

Helms was not available for comment Tuesday.

Briggs said the chief judge of the administrative branch of the court system has declared a "judicial emergency," requiring the vacant positions on the circuit to be filled as soon as possible.

But political controversy has arisen over whether the Republican-controlled Senate is avoiding filling the vacant positions due to Congress' upcoming adjournment and the presidential elections Nov. 7, which could lead to the election of a Republican president.

Congress had originally scheduled an Oct. 6 date for adjournment, but due to unfinished business, the date has been postponed.

Because Congress will most likely adjourn soon, it is possible that no new candidates will be nominated to the 4th Circuit during this session.

But Briggs said he hopes Gibson's nomination will go through as Edwards intends.

"She'd be an outstanding judge, and Senator Edwards thinks very highly of her."

The University Editor can be reached at

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