The Senate today voted to confirm controversial trial judge D. Brooks Smith to a lifetime federal appeals court judgeship. Smith’s nomination is opposed by national environmental organizations, as well as women’s rights, workers’ rights, disability rights, and civil rights groups because of the serious substantive, ethical, and credibility concerns raised by this nominee’s record.
“We are disappointed by the result of today’s vote, but note that many Senators recognized that environmental and related concerns are important factors in deciding whether to approve a nominee to a lifetime federal judgeship,” said Glenn Sugameli of Earthjustice’s Judging the Environment project. “Judge Smith’s trial court rulings against the rights of average Americans often were reversed for their unbalanced extremism. His past unwillingness to follow binding legal precedent makes him an unfortunate addition to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) eloquently raised environmental and other concerns in their remarks in floor statements. Earthjustice praised these Senators and others who voted against Judge Smith’s confirmation for their leadership in opposing a judge whose views run counter to the interests of most Americans.
In a letter to Senators, Earthjustice and other groups highlighted rulings in which Judge Smith ignored precedent to favor industry interests over public health and the environment. In a rare step, Earthjustice and other environmental groups opposed his confirmation. Their opposition was based upon detailed analysis that Judge Smith’s rulings on access to the courts, illegal toxic dumping, and “takings” of private property unjustifiably threaten environmental and other safeguards; very serious concerns about his willingness and ability to follow binding precedent; and his credibility and ethics.
“Unfortunately, unless he brings a very different ideology to the Third Circuit, Judge Smith will not only fail to adequately serve the American people as a fair judge, but he will most likely also cause further harm to public health and the environment,” said Sugameli.
According to Sugameli, the judge’s extreme views call into question the constitutionality of a broad range of federal safeguards for the environment, civil rights, and people with disabilities. “Judge Smith’s views on federal authority threaten the very premise that our government has either the responsibility or the ability to protect citizens with public health safeguards,” said Sugameli.