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    Graham removes blockade on marshals, judge approvals

    By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 13, 2003

    TALLAHASSEE -- U.S. Sen. Bob Graham has withdrawn his objections to all federal nominations in Florida, clearing the way for the appointment of three new U.S. marshals and two judges.

    It was welcome news to Thomas Hurlburt Jr. and Dennis Williamson, nominees for marshal positions in Tampa and Tallahassee.

    Hurlburt, a former public safety director and police chief in Orlando, and Williamson, former deputy director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, quit their jobs in September, expecting to assume their new posts in October. But Graham objected when President Bush nominated Christina Pharo, a deputy marshal in Miami, to be U.S. marshal there. The nominating commission had not recommended Pharo.

    "My complaint has never been with the qualifications of these individual nominees, but with the fact that the White House deviated from the nominating process which has so well served Floridians," Graham said.

    Hurlburt and Williamson were both recommended by the commission, but their appointments got caught up in the controversy.

    Wednesday, Graham said he is dropping his opposition to the three nominees for U.S. marshal positions as well as to judicial nominee Cecilia M. Altonaga, who would become the first Cuban-American woman to sit on the federal bench.

    Graham also will accept the nominees to replace U.S. District Judge Lacey Collier of Pensacola, who is retiring later this year.

    Graham attached a copy of a March 12 letter from White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr., saying he wanted to "reiterate that the president is committed to following the commission process in Florida" and intends to follow it in the future.

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    From the Times state desk