DECEMBER 03, 2003
Senators Durbin, Kennedy Improperly Blocked Conservative Judicial Nominees
On December 2, 2003, Judicial Watch filed formal complaints with the Senate Ethics Committee against two individual senators who improperly obstructed the confirmation of President Bush’s judicial nominees.
Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois engaged in an orchestrated scheme to deny confirmation votes on judicial nominees he and his staff deemed “vulnerable,” and whose confirmations could be stalled until a time when, “the public will be more tolerant of partisan dissent.”
According to a smoking gun memorandum from Senator Durbin’s office, Durbin considered D.C. Circuit Court nominee Miguel Estrada, “especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment.” Following a two-year confirmation battle, Mr. Estrada withdrew his name from consideration.
“The fact that Senator Durbin would engage in a racially motivated scheme to deny Mr. Estrada a vote is unconscionable,” said JW President Tom Fitton. “Not only has Senator Durbin violated his oath of office, but he has undermined the trust of the American People. Judicial Watch will fight to see that he is punished. If a conservative had targeted a nominee because of his race, there would be an uproar. The silence is deafening, though, now that a liberal has been caught in an act of racial discrimination.”
Reports in the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Times confirm that Senator Durbin coordinated his efforts to block conservative nominations with leftist political pressure groups, including: People for the American Way, NARAL and the American Association of University Women.
While Senator Durbin was busy orchestrating a scheme with liberal groups to obstruct the president’s judicial nominees, Senator Edward Kennedy purposefully delayed the confirmation of Judge Julia S. Gibbons to impact the outcome of a specific judicial decision, according to an April 17, 2002 internal staff memo.
At the time, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was considering a controversial case involving the race-based admissions policies of the University of Michigan Law School. President Bush had nominated Judge Gibbons for a seat on the Sixth Circuit bench. Had she been confirmed, Judge Gibbons would have been able to review the case and vote on it, tipping the balance in favor of striking down admissions policies that consider race as a factor.
“The thinking is that the current Sixth Circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, that new judge will be able, under Sixth Circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it,” Kennedy staffers wrote.
Senator Kennedy abused the powers of his office to delay the confirmation process. Judge Gibbons was finally confirmed on July 29, 2002, two months after the Sixth Circuit ruled in favor of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program in a 5-4 vote – the outcome Senator Kennedy desired.
Judicial Watch has filed both formal complaints against the senators “under provisions of the Senate Ethics Manual, for improper conduct reflecting upon the U.S. Senate and the general principles of public service.”