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Prosecutor Could Move Behind Bench

Less than a year after he was tapped to be Maryland's top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein has emerged as a potential nominee for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Sources familiar with the process confirmed recently that the White House is considering Rosenstein, 41, for a spot on the Richmond-based court. At least two other names have been floated since the seat became vacant in 2000, and a third candidate -- Claude A. Allen, who later became a White House adviser and then resigned and was charged last month in a shoplifting scheme -- was nominated but did not receive Senate confirmation.

The court covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North and South Carolina, and three of its 15 judges traditionally are from Maryland. Maryland's U.S. senators, Democrats who helped block Allen's confirmation, have expressed reservations about Rosenstein's possible nomination but declined to say whether they would block it.

The Baltimore Sun, which first reported that Rosenstein was under consideration Monday, quoted Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes as saying of the possible nomination, "not at this point."

A Sarbanes spokesman told The Washington Post that the senator believes Rosenstein "is doing a good job ..... and wants him to continue in that position." The spokesman said any nominee "should have a record of long-standing service in the Maryland legal community and in Maryland civic life as well."

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said in a statement: "Rod Rosenstein is doing a good job as the U.S. attorney in Maryland and that's where we need him. The White House should look at Maryland's federal bench for experienced jurists who have already passed the Senate with bipartisan support."

Rosenstein, a former Whitewater prosecutor whose youth would add to his appeal in a White House that has sought to leave a lasting conservative imprint on the judiciary, did not apply for the job but was sought out, a source said.

Rosenstein, who was hired as an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland in 1997, has lived in Bethesda for 10 years.

Eric Rich

By Phyllis Jordan  |  April 22, 2006; 7:52 AM ET
 
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