President Obama yesterday made his first judicial appointment, naming U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton to the federal appeals court, a choice excoriated by some conservatives even as the White House touted him as the type of moderate who could cool the nation's long-simmering judicial battles.
The White House held out Hamilton as a prototype for the nominees Obama will seek as he reshapes the federal appeals courts -- and by extension, the laws governing contentious social issues such as abortion and affirmative action -- during his presidency. Currently, there are 17 vacancies on the nation's appeals courts, which are organized into 12 circuits across the country.
Meanwhile, with the oldest Supreme Court justice 89 and three others older than 70, it is widely expected that Obama will fill one -- if not more -- high court vacancies during his tenure.
Obama named Hamilton, 51, to a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, a choice administration officials said signals his intention to pick judicial moderates with diverse résumés and a record of what he considers good judgment and "empathy" for the people involved in cases before the courts.