Obama begins to overhaul key US appeals court

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k Obama is moving to reshape the Virginia-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, known as the nation's most conservative federal appeals court.

The court supported anti-terrorism initiatives of the Bush administration and has issued many conservative rulings on abortion, death penalty and criminal rights cases.

Five of the nation's 20 open circuit judgeships belong to the court that hears cases from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Maryland.

Obama has nominated U.S. District Judge Andre Davis of Maryland and Virginia Supreme Court Justice Barbara Keenan. If they win Senate confirmation, Democratic appointees will outnumber Republicans 7-5 on the court.

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