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Utah judicial nominee zips through Hatch committee

While President Clinton charges that Republicans are moving too slowly on his judicial nominees, at least one - Utahn Dale Kimball - zipped to and through his confirmation hearing Tuesday in less than a month after he was nominated.

Of course, it helps that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, recommended Kimball to Clinton, who nominated him on Sept. 4 as a federal district judge for Utah.And Hatch lavished praise on Kimball at the hearing - while Democrats groused Hatch is stalling on all but home-state nominees. That prompted Hatch to blame most delays on Democrats.

Kimball, meanwhile, vowed in his confirmation hearing to try to be a judge who is "well prepared, informed and (would) render timely and thoughtful and well-explained decisions."

He faced questions only from Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and they were friendly ones asking what sort of temperament a judge should have, and how he plans to move his court docket quickly.

"I consider myself a good manager and would utilize the various management techniques for moving things along and keeping them orderly that I've utilized in my law practice" as senior partner at Kimball, Parr, Waddoups, Brown & Gee, he said.

Kimball, 57, also vowed in a written questionnaire to the committee to avoid judicial activism.

"The Judiciary should not improperly intrude into the functions of the executive or legislative branches of government," he wrote.

Hatch praised him as "one of the finest people I know. Dale Kimball is not only an excellent lawyer, he is a person of the highest integrity, the highest ability, a person you can rely upon, a person who understands the role of judging and a person who I think literally will elevate the federal bench."

Hatch added, "I think he will become one of the great judges in America, and I expect no less from him."

Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, who introduced Kimball with Hatch, said he came to know Kimball when Wall Street brokerages recommended his firm as one of the best in America to help his Franklin Quest company go public and offer stock years ago.

After working with him, Bennett said he has concluded, "He would be qualified to serve on any bench in any jurisdiction."

The senators also praised Kimball's experience as a Brigham Young University law professor; as an associate and partner at Van Cott, Bagley, Cornwall & McCarthy; and his work on such cases as helping the old Salt Lake Trappers sue the Salt Lake Buzz for infringement on their territory.

Disclosure forms with the committee show that Kimball is a millionaire - with a net worth of $1.28 million.

He will be taking a cut in wages to be a judge. The salary of a federal judge is $133,600 a year - but his forms showed his law firm paid him $207,386 last year and $222,383 so far this year.

Kimball is on the board of directors of the Deseret News, and plans to resign if confirmed.

Kimball's confirmation hearing also became an act in the larger drama of Republicans and Democrats blaming each other for moving slow on nominees - at least those not from Utah.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on Tuesday complained - as did Clinton in his weekend radio address - that Republicans are stalling nominees. And Leahy said quick action on Kimball shows Republicans could act similarly fast on others - but 68 nominees lack confirmation (and 94 federal vacancies exist).

Leahy jokingly hoped that "the confirmation process for the vacancy in Utah is likely to set the standard for how promptly this committee can proceed to review and report federal judgeship nominations."

Such complaints by Clinton and Leahy prompted Hatch to rebut arguments in a speech to the full Senate.

He said of the 68 judicial nominations made by Clinton this year, half of them came after July 1. With Congress's August recess, he said that has left only two months to consider them. He said Clinton shouldn't complain that is slow when he took more than a year to nominate many of them in the first place.

"It has taken President Clinton an average of 618 days to name a nominee for a vacancy (on average)," Hatch said. "It has taken the Senate an average of 91 days to confirm a judge once the president finally nominates him or her."

He added, therefore, that delays should not be blamed on Congress. "The delay has to date been largely at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."

Kimball's nomination next will be voted on - probably in a week or so - by the Judiciary Committee. It should then be sent to the full Senate for confirmation.