WASHINGTON (AP) _ An American Bar Association panel has told the Senate that the son of Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., is not qualified for the federal bench, an assessment the elder Bunning disagreed with Tuesday.

Roscoe Trimmier, chairman of the ABA panel that advises the Senate on judicial nominees, said that a majority of the 15-member panel found David Bunning to be unqualified.

Trimmier didn't say why, but it may come down to the federal prosecutor's experience.

The bar association recommends that nominees have at least 12 years of experience, but Bunning, of Fort Thomas, Ky., has been a lawyer for 10 years.

In a letter Tuesday to Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Bunning said he was surprised and disappointed to hear about the ABA finding. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also signed the letter.

``We strongly believe that a full and fair hearing is necessary for the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate to effectively exercise its constitutional role of 'advise and consent,''' the senators wrote.

Committee spokeswoman Mimi Devlin said a decision on a hearing had not been made. ``We are considering the senators' request for a hearing at this point,'' she said.

Devlin said Bunning was the only judicial nominee under Senate consideration to receive an unqualified rating. She said it was one of several factors lawmakers would consider.

``Sen. Leahy has always said that each senator should weigh the ABA rating in his or her mind,'' she said.

Sen. Bunning said he thought his son still had a good shot at being confirmed. ``People have become federal district judges even with unfavorable ratings from the ABA,'' he said.

David Bunning did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

While the bar association reviews judicial nominees for the Senate, the Bush administration has decided not to rely on the ABA to investigate lawyers before naming them. That ended a practice dating back to the Eisenhower administration.

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On the Net:

American Bar Association Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary:

http://www.abanet.org/scfedjud/home.html

Senate Judiciary Committee:

http://judiciary.senate.gov/