At a time when judicial nominations are encountering partisan roadblocks and delays in the Senate, it says something about Charles R. Wilson that his nomination to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sailed through the confirmation process without as much as a political bump.
The Senate confirmed Wilson last week in a rare controversy-free, fast-track process. After stalling on most of President Clinton's judicial nominees for months, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave speedy approval to Wilson's nomination, an action that speaks to the nominee's record and composure. Actively supported by both Florida senators, Democrat Bob Graham and Republican Connie Mack, Wilson will replace retiring Judge Joseph Hatchett, for whom Wilson himself clerked some 20 years ago.
Even after Wilson stepped down as federal magistrate five years ago to take over as U.S. attorney in Tampa, his demeanor _ professional, scholarly, subdued _ often was likened more to that of judge than chief prosecutor. Friends and observers say the federal appellate seat is the next logical step in a young career already marked by distinction. Drafted by Attorney General Janet Reno in 1994 to be the chief federal prosecutor for the Middle District, Wilson, a former Hillsborough County judge, has brought stability and a sense of ethics to the office. With little grandstanding, he has sought out public corruption and health-care fraud _ prosecuting the Rev. Henry Lyons, Columbia/HCA Healthcare executives and others _ and made his office and the federal laws it carries out forces to be reckoned with.
There is every reason to believe Wilson will be as good an appellate judge as he has been a U.S. attorney. Wilson does Tampa Bay proud.