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The Daily Tar Heel

Chances for Appointment Increase Without Helms

North Carolina's two senators are working together to appoint a judge to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but some political pundits said this increased bipartisan cooperation might not translate to other legislative areas.

Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Democratic Sen. John Edwards hope to recommend for the position a North Carolinian to President Bush. This would be the first judge from the state to sit on the court since 1980.

The court's jurisdiction includes Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas, but North Carolina is the only state not represented among the court's judges.

There are 12 judges -- at least two from every other state -- represented on the court, with three seats vacant.

Edwards and former U.S. Republican Sen. Jesse Helms have consistently blocked each other's recommendations for the seat since the Clinton administration, keeping out N.C. judicial nominees.

But Edwards and newly inducted Dole say they are committed to working with each other to agree on a candidate they can recommend to the president.

Cooperation between the two senators will result in a moderate judge nomination, said UNC political science Professor Thad Beyle.

"There hasn't been a judge in the past because Helms didn't like Edwards' nominees and Edwards thought Helms' (nominees) were too conservative," he said. "Dole would be easier to work with -- not with a big ideological set of baggage."

Ending the N.C. judiciary stalemate would benefit the state, said Ferrel Guillory, director of UNC's Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life. "A lot of judges and lawyers with businesses would like to have a North Carolina judge who knows the state."

But Guillory also said it is too soon to tell if the two senators will be able to overcome party barriers.

"Both feel partisan pressure to be party loyalist," he said. "Edwards is running for president, while Dole campaigned as a support for President Bush. There is natural party tension between them."

The two senators are going to support different kinds of judges, Guillory said.

But Dole spokeswoman Mary Brown Brewer said Dole has reached out to Edwards to encourage teamwork.

"(Their) staffs have had a couple of discussions," she said. "Dole went to (Edwards') office and talked about how they would work together. She's looking forward to meeting (with) her colleague and moving the process along."

Edwards spokesman Mike Briggs said Edwards is hopeful his and Dole's combined efforts will be more productive than in the past. "Helms and Edwards were able to work together on many things but had different viewpoints on judicial vacancies," he said.

"Senator Edwards has reached out to Dole like he did Helms. He is optimistic to work together with Dole and bring constructive results for the state of North Carolina. They will probably have differences, but where they can come together, they will."

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