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NEW WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL GIVING UP LIFETIME JUDGESHIP

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Federal appeals Judge Abner Mikva is trading a lifetime job on the bench for a full-time job on Whitewater and other legal problems that might confront President Clinton.

Mikva's appointment as White House counsel, which Clinton was to announce Thursday, will add stature to the relatively young White House staff and bring political acumen to one of the most sensitive jobs in the White House.Former counsel Lloyd Cutler, 76, and Mikva, 68, are the type of political and legal veterans Clinton has sought to steady his relatively inexperienced staff.

Mikva is chief judge of the federal appeals court in Washington, a former congressman and state legislator from Illinois. Appointed to the bench in 1979, he is considered a leader of the court's liberal wing.

Aides considered it a major coup for Clinton and White House chief of staff Leon Panetta to woo Mikva from a lifetime appointment. The judge was not available for comment Wednesday.

Mikva is giving up a lifetime appointment to serve in the White House. But by the end of September, he will have served 15 years on the federal bench and, combined with his age, qualifies to collect his full judicial salary as a pension.

Cutler agreed to serve for 130 working days, the limit for a special government employee.