- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

The Senate yesterday confirmed District Judge D. Brooks Smith to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals despite objections from some Democrats that membership in a male-only sporting club should disqualify the nominee.
The Pennsylvania judge was confirmed on a 64-35 vote, the closest floor vote of any of President Bush's judicial nominees.
"Judge Smith has undergone a difficult period in this confirmation process, which has taken quite a considerable period of time," said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, who praised him for his "steadfastness" throughout the process.
Judge Smith also was criticized for a case that could have involed his wife. He recused himself, but, Democrats said not soon enough. He never made a ruling on the case.by Democrats and liberal organizations for belonging to the all-male Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club in Pennsylvania. Women cannot be members but can receive grounds and clubhouse privileges.
The judge also was criticized for a case that could have involved his wife. He recused himself, but, Democrats said, not soon enough. He never made a ruling on the case.
The debate resembled "some wacky politically correct college campus Berkeley on the Potomac," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking Judiciary Committee member.
"The fact is, this judge is one of the most respected judges in all of Pennsylvania," Mr. Hatch said.
However, the environmental group Earthjustice praised Democrats for "eloquently" arguing their concern that Judge Smith's views "run counter to the interests of most Americans."
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and committee chairman, said they had serious concerns about appointing Judge Smith, a conservative, to the higher court.
"These courts are where federal regulations will be upheld or overturned, where reproductive rights will be retained or lost, and where intrusive government action will be allowed or curtailed," Mr. Leahy said.
In his 1988 district judge confirmation hearings, Judge Smith promised to resign from the club if he could not change the rules to allow women. He did so in 1999, but Mr. Leahy said it was only to avoid the question again if the opportunity arose for a higher promotion.
"I find that extremely troubling," Mr. Leahy said.
In his resignation letter to the club, Judge Smith said he was quitting because the policy was at odds with federal judicial conduct.
Mr. Santorum called the argument against confirmation because of the club membership "outrageous."
"The point that he belonged to this club has nothing to do with his ability to be a jurist," Mr. Santorum said. "The complaint should not be that he resigned too late, but that he is not still there trying to change it."
Meanwhile, the Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on another contentious nominee, Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The delay was at the request of the White House, said spokesman Ari Fleischer.
"The postponement actually allows the president to have more time, and allows the administration to have more time, to talk to some of the senators whose votes may be reachable," Mr. Fleischer said.
"So the president hopes that this will allow for her confirmation. He's dedicated to it. He thinks she's an outstanding jurist, and he hopes that the Senate will act in a bipartisan way and not a partisan way," Mr. Fleischer said.
The Senate has confirmed 11 circuit court judges, with 21 still pending, and has approved 59 district judges, with 57 pending.

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