Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Just six months after quitting the all-male social club to which he belonged for 50 years, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is questioning one of President Bush’s nominees to the federal bench about his membership in an all-male dining club.

“What is your reason for failing to resign from the club any earlier than February 2, 2006?” Mr. Kennedy demanded in writing of Oklahoma lawyer Jerome A. Holmes, nominated to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Documents provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by The Washington Times show that Mr. Holmes belonged to the Men’s Dinner Club of Oklahoma City but quit after expressing interest in becoming a federal judge.

Mr. Holmes told the committee in writing that he never perceived the dining club to harbor any bias toward women but he resigned to clear up any appearances of impropriety.

“Its membership consisted of widely respected business, community and government leaders, including at least two judges of Oklahoma’s courts of last resort,” he explained to Mr. Kennedy. “I recognized in February 2006 that some might perceive the Men’s Dinner Club as being an improper organization of the kind discussed above. That was unacceptable to me.”

In January, Mr. Kennedy quit the Owl Club after The Washington Times revealed his continued membership in the fraternitylike organization for Harvard University’s select male students and alumni.

Mr. Kennedy’s ties to the Owl Club came to light after he interrogated Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. over his association with Concerned Alumni of Princeton, a group founded to combat campus liberalism at Princeton University.

Judge Alito’s affiliation “with an organization that fought the admission of women into Princeton calls into question his appreciation of the need for full equality in this country,” the Massachusetts Democrat said during the January hearings.

Mr. Kennedy’s Owl Club was booted off Harvard’s campus in 1984 for its refusal to allow women to join.

The senator also inquired about the racial sensitivities of Mr. Holmes, who is black.

“Is racism a negative influence in the [judicial] system?” Mr. Kennedy asked.

“Racism is evil,” replied Mr. Holmes. “Insofar as it exists in any societal system, it would be a negative influence.”

Mr. Kennedy also asked about Mr. Holmes’ chairmanship of his law firm’s diversity committee and whether that contradicted his publicly stated opposition to racial quotas.

Mr. Holmes said that he and his firm’s diversity committee are dedicated to “increasing the size of the pool of racial and ethnic minority students who will be situated by virtue of education and interest to apply to law school and thereby enter the ranks of the legal profession.”

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