- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

A Senate panel yesterday postponed a vote on the troubled nomination of Circuit Court candidate Judge D. Brooks Smith, sparking Republican concerns that Democrats are sabotaging the nominee.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, postponed the vote for one week so that senators will have a "full and fair opportunity to consider the matter."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member, said he has serious doubts the committee will move the nomination to the floor for a full vote and questioned Democrat motives.
"I think I know the answer more underhanded and unfair treatment by the usual left-of-mainstream lobbyists bent on destroying honorable people for their own political gain," Mr. Hatch said.
Intense lobbying by special-interest groups began before Judge Smith's Feb. 26 committee hearing, Mr. Hatch said. A disinformation campaign was spread on the Internet, he said, and members of the National Organization for Women telephoned Pennsylvania lawyers, asking them to speak out against the nominee.
"The underhanded strategy backfired because lawyer after lawyer, whether they had won or lost, came out in favor of Judge Smith," Mr. Hatch said.
Judge Smith, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, is President Bush's nominee for a federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals seat.
"He has earned a reputation for competence, fairness and judicial temperament during 13 years as a federal judge," Mr. Hatch said.
Mr. Leahy twice interrupted Mr. Hatch's speech before the committee meeting, at one time calling the address a fillibuster.
"There are issues that will need to be debated," Mr. Leahy said in his opening statement.
Democrats will focus their attacks on Judge Smith's recusals in two cases they say he had conflicts of interest owing to his financial holdings and his wife's employment. Republicans say the recusals prevented any conflict of interest.
Democrats are also critical of Judge Smith for having once belonged to the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club, which at one time excluded women. Former President Jimmy Carter was also a member of the club, and fondly recalled it in his memoirs.
A source close to the confirmation process said a Democrat committee staffer called the rod and gun club, which consists of a ramshackle farmhouse on a hill overlooking a creek, asking if it included a golf course and swimming pool.
"This is not the Chevy Chase Country Club," the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Republicans are hoping to avoid another bruising confirmation process, like that of failed Appeals Court nominee Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. They are counting on the influence of Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, and supporter of many Clinton nominees, to garner Democrat votes.
Capitol Hill staffers say the one-week delay was directed at Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican. Mr. Santorum angered Mr. Leahy by holding a news conference last month focusing on female and Democrat support of Judge Smith's nomination.
The committee yesterday did vote 19-0 to confirm the nominations of Richard R. Clifton to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court, Christopher C. Conner and John E. Jones III as District Court judges for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and Joy Flowers Conti as District Court judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania.


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