WASHINGTON — With only three weeks until expected adjournment, the prospects that Thomas Griffiths, the Brigham Young University general counsel, will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as a federal appeals court judge are fading fast.

"It's going to be hard at best," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has yet to even hold hearings on the nomination of Griffiths to the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the ranking Democrat on the committee, put it more bluntly: "I don't think it (the nomination) is even on life support."

Leahy has repeatedly said Democrats will block Griffiths' nomination to what is considered the second most powerful court in the nation. And he gave no indication Tuesday that he was backing down.

But Hatch said negotiations are under way behind the scenes to push through the nomination in the days ahead, sometime before senators head to their home states to resume last-minute campaigning.

The committee is still waiting for the American Bar Association to conduct its review of the Griffiths nomination, something expected within a week, Hatch said.

"I think we might get him through before the election. But I know I'm going to get him through after the election (if President Bush wins re-election)," Hatch said.

The Senate is hoping to wrap up its session by the first week of October. If Griffiths' nomination is not confirmed by that time, it will expire at the end of the year and Bush — if re-elected — would have to resubmit the nomination.

The nomination is one of numerous Bush nominations to the federal courts that have provoked opposition from Democrats, mostly because the nominees are perceived to be too conservative.

But Griffiths ran into trouble because his Washington, D.C., law firm did not pay his bar association dues, a condition for a license to practice law there. Griffiths immediately paid the delinquent dues upon finding out.

Critics also pointed out that Griffiths did not have a license to practice law during the four years he was general counsel at BYU, even though BYU said a license to practice law was not required for the administrative work he did there.

Leahy isn't buying Griffiths' explanations.

"This is a man who practiced law in two states in violation of the laws — what a fine, fine standard the White House has" for judicial nominees, Leahy said. "In my state he would be prosecuted. I've never seen anything so unbelievable."

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