Originally created 11/13/97

Judge awaiting committee choice



WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today on the nomination of a Columbia County native to a federal judgeship.

Superior Court Judge Richard W. Story, who was raised in Harlem, appeared Wednesday before the committee, which is considering his nomination by President Clinton to become U.S. district judge in north Georgia.

Judge Story, 44, has served on the bench of Georgia's Gainesville-based Northeastern Judicial Circuit since the mid-1980s, stepping up to chief judge in 1993. But it was in Harlem that his character was formed, said U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., who introduced Judge Story to the committee.

"Being a small-town guy has meant a lot to Rick and has shaped him into the determined, principled man that he is today," Mr. Cleland said.

Judge Story was raised by a father who owned a gasoline station and was active in Democratic politics, and a mother who was a florist. After earning a law degree from the University of Georgia in 1978, he entered private law practice.

Two years later, he was appointed a part-time special assistant attorney general, representing the state in child support and custody cases. Before he was named to the state judgeship, he served about a year as a Hall County juvenile court judge.

Judge Story was among four federal judicial nominees to appear before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday as the panel moved to pare down a backlog of vacancies on the federal bench. The sluggish pace at which the Senate has moved this year to confirm Mr. Clinton's nominees has prompted the president to accuse GOP leaders of playing partisan politics.

Republicans say they are making sure no nominees likely to render politically motivated activist decisions will get past them.

"If judges just start doing what they want and don't observe the law, it won't take long until the judicial system undermines this great country," committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told the nominees. "Each of you can make a difference for the (nominees) who follow you before this committee by being good judges and following the Constitution."

Judge Story wouldn't say how he believes his nomination will fare with the committee. The Justice Department routinely encourages judicial nominees not to speak with reporters until after they are confirmed by the Senate.

With Congress about to adjourn for the year, Mr. Hatch said he hopes the committee will act today to speed the nominations to the full Senate. He assured the nominees that if the Senate fails to act before adjournment, he will push for confirmation votes in January.