- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

A Senate panel approved yesterday the nomination of Circuit Court nominee Judge D. Brooks Smith, with three Democrats defying their colleagues' contention that the candidate be defeated for once being a member of an all-male rod-and-gun club.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved 12-7 the Western District judge's nomination for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with support from Democratic Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and John Edwards of North Carolina. The nomination now heads to the full Senate for a vote.

"We won the vote, he is going to the floor, and I predict he is going to be sitting on the 3rd Circuit very soon," said Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican.

Democrats led by Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, committee chairman, said they opposed Judge Smith because he once belonged to the all-male Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club in Pennsylvania.

The club consists of a club house but has no golf course, swimming pool or tennis courts.

Mr. Leahy said he "genuinely means no harm to Judge Smith" but added that the judge should have resigned from the "country club" in 1989, when he first told the committee of his membership. Judge Smith also said he would resign but did not do so until 1999.

"If we allow such a promise, whether it is about club membership or some other issue to be so flagrantly broken with no consequence, then promises and assurances to this committee will mean very little," Mr. Leahy said.

"That is a bad precedent," he added.

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and ranking member, said Judge Smith received the highest rating "well qualified" from the American Bar Association and blamed opposition to the nomination on left-wing special interest groups.

"Given the bipartisan support Judge Smith enjoys from the people who know him best, and his stellar record, I find it most difficult to accept that the opposition to him has centered on his belonging to an all-male, family-oriented fishing club where his father first taught him to fly fish the same rustic club that Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have visited frequently to escape, relax, and fish," Mr. Hatch said.

"I warned that if this is the kind of thing that this committee uses as an excuse for thwarting the president's judicial nominations, then the American people will have a big laugh at our expense, and rightly so," the senator said.

Judge Smith told the Senate committee that he would resign from the club if he could not change the rule on exclusion of women.

A friend of the Smith family said the judge kept his word and worked to change the standard.

"He really tried to change it, he really thought he could do it," the friend said.

Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, said Judge Smith "has not been mistreated" by the committee, but the judge "has not demonstrated good judgment on certain ethical issues" and is "plagued by an ethical cloud."

"No one should be on the court if they give the slightest [hint] of discrimination," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Mr. Biden said he would have liked to vote against the nominee because he does not agree with Judge Smith's ideology, "but I don't have a sufficient reason to vote against him."

Members of the National Organization for Women spoke out against the nomination, but the conservative Concerned Women of America (CWA) voiced strong support.

"Judge Smith is a man of noble character, and we are proud to see his name recommended to the Senate," said Sandy Rios, CWA president.

"The strong ethics of men like Judge Smith should never be subject to smear campaigns like those mounted by the National Organization for Women," Miss Rios said.

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