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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 18:46 GMT 19:46 UK
Bush forced to drop judge choice
US Supreme Court (pic courtesy of US Information Agency)
US courts have become battlegrounds for political parties
US President George W Bush has dropped his controversial nomination of a conservative lawyer to a federal appeals court.

Miguel Estrada, an immigrant from Honduras who graduated from Harvard Law School, had informed Mr Bush that he wanted his name withdrawn after Democrats in the Senate blocked his nomination.

His proposed nomination led to strong opposition from Democrats, who accused Mr Bush of trying to pack the nation's courts with conservatives sympathetic to Republican ideals.

They also alleged that Mr Estrada had failed to answer their questions about his legal views, the French news agency AFP reported.

In a brief statement, Mr Bush said he decided to withdraw the nomination with "regret" and attacked the Democratic party for their "disgraceful treatment" of Mr Estrada.

The president proposed Mr Estrada for the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit more than two years ago.

However, during the US Senate confirmation process, Democrats argued that Mr Estrada was too conservative.

They effectively blocked his nomination by "filibustering" - prolonging a debate until voting could not be held.

Courting controversy

The balance of ideology in US courts, particularly the Supreme Court - the highest in the land - has become the subject of increasingly bitter battles between Republicans and Democrats.

Several judges within the Supreme Court are contemplating retirement and both parties are keen to ensure that any prospective replacement represents their interests.

The Supreme Court is the third arm of the government in the US, and carries out crucial decisions on such issues as abortion rights, birth control and affirmative action.

In recent years, the mood of the court has grown more conservative, limiting rights it granted in previous decades to crime suspects, free speech advocates and minority groups.

However the battle has been fierce, with many judgements decided by a single vote.

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