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After GOP Senate sweep, judiciary is set to shift right

Dozens of judicial nominees will likely get quick approval in the 108th Congress.

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Presidential proclamations, policies, and legislative initiatives may come and go, but federal judicial appointments are for life.

With that in mind, the Bush administration and its conservative allies are gearing up to take full advantage of this week's midterm election victories.

Not since the Reagan revolution of the early 1980s has an American president been so well positioned to reshape the federal judiciary in a conservative mold.

With a slim Republican majority now in the US Senate, President Bush is poised to quickly and efficiently fill most of 79 existing judicial vacancies.

As a result, the balance of power between Democratic and Republican appointees on the nation's powerful federal appeals courts is about to shift dramatically in the Republicans' favor.

Legal experts say there isn't much Democrats can do about it. And the prospect of a new crop of conservative judges has many liberal groups, including women's rights and abortion-rights organizations, on the defensive.

At the same time, many conservatives are celebrating. "The long night in the desert might finally be over," says Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies in Washington.

Mr. Pilon is referring to nearly 18 months of obstructionist tactics in the outgoing Democrat-controlled Senate, which had held up more than 50 of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees. "Once the 108th Congress comes in [in January], however, I should expect to see these nominations voted on, out, and up expeditiously," he says.

Issues winding through courts

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