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More Than 25 Groups Express Concerns about Circuit Court Nominee D. Brooks Smith

Environmentalists joined by disability rights, civil rights, women's rights groups
February 1, 2002
Washington, DC — 
Earthjustice and Community Rights Counsel, along with 25 other national organizations today sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing their serious concerns about the record of Judge D. Brooks Smith. Nominated by President Bush to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Smith would be responsible for deciding cases from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware if confirmed. Environmentalists cite a need for thorough investigation into Smith's record because of important rulings as a district court judge in which he favored industry interests over environmental protection and public health.

"Judge Smith's rulings in illegal toxic dumping, environmental crimes, and other cases show a bias for polluters and against victims and the environment," said Glenn Sugameli of Earthjustice's Judging the Environment project.

One of the most egregious rulings cited by the groups was in the criminal case against Action Mining, Inc., a coal company that secretly and illegally built a pipe to carry untreated acid mine drainage to nearby Coal Run, a tributary of Casselman River in Pennsylvania. During the four year the pipe was in operation, acid mine drainage killed 60,000 stocked trout and left a stretch of the river dead. The company itself estimates that this Clean Water Act violation saved them $5 million in treatment costs. Judge Smith let them off with a $50,000 criminal fine, just one percent of their profit from the violation.

"A ruling like that sends a simple message: illegal pollution can pay," points out Sugameli. "With a 'punishment' like that, polluting was a highly profitable business venture."

Environmentalists also express concerns about Judge Smith's frequent participation in junkets for judges. Funded by corporations and special interests, these trips to luxury resorts and dude ranches allow those with stakes in federal litigation to pitch judges on their viewpoints while playing a round of golf or riding horseback. According to research by Community Rights Counsel, Judge Smith took twelve of these special interest trips from 1992 through 2000.

"Judge Smith is one of the most junketed federal judges in America and his rulings suggest that the corporations funding these trips are getting a great return on their investment," said Doug Kendall, of Community Rights Counsel.

Judge Smith must be confirmed by the Senate before taking his seat on the Third Circuit Court. According to the Constitution, the Senate's role is both to advise and consent on judicial confirmations. The groups maintain that to fulfill that reponsibility, the Senate must thoroughly review the record of controversial nominees. Judge Smith's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee could be scheduled as early as this month.


Contact:
Suzanne Carrier
202.667.4500, x. 213