- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

The flagrant breaking of a promise to Sen. Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, by fellow Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, to hold a Senate Judiciary Committee vote on ex-Thurmond aide and now-Judge Dennis Shedd for a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacancy shatters Senate precedent and hands both South Carolinians a raw deal.

Rated "well-qualified" by the American Bar Association, Mr. Shedd is being smeared and undermined by Democratic Senate candidate Alex Sanders in his home state as well as by Mr. Sanders' allies with the South Carolina NAACP and national, liberal activist groups. But, in spite of that opposition, Judiciary Committee Chairman Leahy had promised the venerable lawmaker that there would be a committee vote a pledge reiterated to at least three other senators. In fact, on Wednesday, in what may have been his final floor speech, the 99-year-old statesman said: "In my 48 years in the Senate … I have never been treated in such a manner." Mr. Thurmond added, in a shot aimed directly at Mr. Leahy, "I took you at your word."

What was the reason for Mr. Leahy's double-cross? On July 31, Mr. Thurmond notes that the chairman told the committee that "we had worked out a solution to Mr. Shedd that would be satisfactory to me." But soon afterwards, Sen. Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware, announced to a startled Mr. Leahy and other Democrats that he would be voting for Mr. Shedd. Sen. John Edwards, Democrat of North Carolina, has even indicated that he would vote yes (although he has now backtracked).

Those two Democrats' votes or even Mr. Biden's alone coupled with the Republicans would have allowed Mr. Shedd's nomination to pass the committee and move to the floor. (South Carolina's other senator, Democrat Ernest Hollings, also supports the judge.)

Mr. Leahy had to do something extraordinary to block the latest presidential nomination of an unabashed constitutionalist judge. He also wanted to help Democratic candidate Mr. Sanders who was blasting Mr. Shedd as anti-black and anti-women to shore up left-wing support and donations.

On a personal note, having worked with Mr. Shedd on Mr. Thurmond's staff for two years in the 1980s, I never heard him utter anything even remotely "anti-black" or "anti-women." In fact, liberals won't tell you that, in 1996, Mr. Shedd championed a well-qualified African-American female, Margaret Seymour, to be a fellow magistrate. It was Mr. Shedd's influence that made it happen.

Furthermore, the judge has never been reversed during his 12-year tenure on a discrimination case except on two occasions and they both involved what any objective observer would agree were technicalities.

It is sad that a man with such impressive qualifications (Mr. Shedd was highly respected on both sides of the aisle for his hard work as chief counsel and staff director for the Judiciary Committee from 1978 to 1988) is the latest judge to fall victim to the liberal ideological hatchet.

Mr. Biden, who in spite of his liberalism has a deep affection for Mr. Thurmond and personally knows the stellar qualities of Mr. Shedd, is just as angry with Mr. Leahy as the president of the United States and South Carolina's senior senator are. The only hope to finally confirm Dennis Shedd is for a new Senate (or a lameduck session of the present Senate) to right this terrible wrong.


Phil Kent is president of the Southeastern Legal Foundation.


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