NCJW National President Urges Senator Leahy to Oppose Confirmation of Judge D. Brooks Smith

May 8, 2002, New York, NY - Marsha Atkind, National President of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) issued the following letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

May 8, 2002

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Leahy:

On behalf of the 90,000 members, supporters and volunteers of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) nationwide, I am writing to express our opposition to the confirmation of Judge D. Brooks Smith to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

NCJW feels that a basic requirement for confirmation to a lifetime appointment to the federal courts of appeals should be a demonstrated commitment to fundamental constitutional rights. Given the fact that the Supreme Court decides so few cases, the federal courts of appeal are often the final word when it comes to protecting our constitutional and civil rights. The information that has come to light on Judge Smith's judicial philosophy, record on the bench, and membership in a discriminatory club leads us to conclude that he should not be confirmed.

In reference to Judge Smith's judicial philosophy, we point to a 1993 speech delivered to the Federalist Society in Pittsburgh that clearly elucidates his view of federal jurisdiction. Judge Smith specifically challenged Congress' authority in passing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a bill that was the result of years of congressional study and deliberation. Through hearings and study, Congress determined that violence against women created a barrier to the full participation of women in this country's economy. VAWA has been responsible for innovative programs and strategies to redress this problem that has been one of particular concern to the National Council of Jewish Women and its affiliates. We are also deeply concerned about his questioning of the Roe v. Wade decision in the same speech. NCJW feels that we cannot afford to confirm judges to this important court who may not be committed to the constitutional protection of women's reproductive rights.

As a District Court judge, D. Brooks Smith's decisions in a case involving family leave for a male teacher (Schafer v. Board of Public Education of the School District of Pittsburgh) and an affirmative action case (Quirin v. City of Pittsburgh) both indicate a troubling pattern of disregard for legal protections against sex discrimination.

Finally, Judge Smith's 11-year membership in an all-male club despite the promise he made at his 1988 District Court confirmation hearing, is extremely disturbing. The Code of Judicial Conduct, developed by the Judicial Conference of the US, prohibits membership in discriminatory clubs, and the Senate Judiciary Committee Resolution (adopted in 1990) clearly indicates the Committee's view that such membership is inappropriate for federal judicial nominees. NCJW believes that judges who are professionally responsible for protecting us from discrimination should, by their conduct, indicate their abhorrence of discrimination.

In conclusion, the National Council of Jewish Women believes that judges nominated to the federal appellate courts should be considered and confirmed based on their integrity, judicial philosophy and temperament, and commitment to safeguarding constitutional and civil rights. We believe that, in all of these areas, Judge Smith's nomination raises very serious concerns. We urge you to oppose this nomination.


Marsha Atkind
National President

cc: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee