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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Senator Sam Brownback - Crazy as a bedbug, and proud of it...

From the NY Times


December 19, 2006
Senator Removes His Block on Federal Court Nominee
By NEIL A. LEWIS
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 — Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who blocked the confirmation of a woman to the federal bench because she attended a same-sex commitment ceremony for the daughter of her long-time neighbors, says he will now allow a vote on the nomination.

Mr. Brownback, a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said in a recent interview that when the Senate returned in January, he would allow a vote on Janet Neff, a 61-year-old Michigan state judge, who was nominated to a Federal District Court seat.

Mr. Brownback, who has been criticized for blocking the nomination, said he would also no longer press a proposed solution he offered on Dec. 8 that garnered even more criticism: that he would remove his block if Judge Neff agreed to recuse herself from all cases involving same-sex unions.

In an interview last week, Mr. Brownback said that he still believed Judge Neff’s behavior raised serious questions about her impartiality and that he was likely to vote against her. But he said he did not realize his proposal — asking a nominee to agree in advance to remove herself from deciding a whole category of cases — was so unusual as to be possibly unprecedented. Legal scholars said it raised constitutional questions of separation of powers for a senator to demand that a judge commit to behavior on the bench in exchange for a vote.

Mr. Brownback said that he believed Judge Neff’s attendance at the 2002 ceremony merited further investigation, but that he had not meant to set any precedent with his proposal. “It was the last day of the session and I was just trying to provide some accommodation to see if we could make this thing go forward,” he said.

He said that “this is a big hot-button issue” and that Judge Neff had not made it clear that her presence at the ceremony did not mean she could not rule without bias in deciding cases involving same-sex unions. “I’d like to know more factually about what took place,” he said.

On Oct. 12, Judge Neff answered a long list of written questions from Mr. Brownback. In her letter, she said she would decide any cases that came before her according to the law and the Constitution and would not be guided by her personal views. That is the same pledge that several conservative Republican judicial nominees made when asked whether their blunt personal statements opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriages would affect their performance on the bench.

Mr. Brownback, a member of the Judiciary Committee who supported those other nominees, has tried to put himself forward as the Republican presidential contender who best represents the interests of the nation’s conservative religious community.

In her letter, Judge Neff said she had attended the ceremony in Massachusetts as a guest, not as a presiding jurist. As the ceremony occurred before Massachusetts’s highest court approved same-sex unions, it did not have any legal validity.

One of the women in the ceremony, Judge Neff wrote, was the daughter of a family who had lived next door for 26 years. She said the families were so close that the woman was, in effect, a part of her family and was like a big sister to her own daughters. She said that she had delivered a homily at the ceremony and that “it was no different than being asked by my own daughters to be part of an important event in their lives.”

Charles Fried, a Harvard Law School professor and leading conservative scholar, said Mr. Brownback’s actions were improper. “First of all, people go to parties for all sorts of reasons,” Professor Fried said, and how one would rule on a case should not be inferred from that private activity.

Further, he said, “It would be inappropriate for the judge to recuse herself from any such case because it is a judge’s duty to sit on cases” unless there is a clear conflict of interest. There would be a genuine conflict of interest, he said, if the judge had a financial interest in a case’s result or had been associated with one of the parties in the case.

“For her to agree to any such restriction in this case would be wrong,” said Professor Fried, who has been both a judge and the solicitor general of the United States.

Judge Neff’s nomination was included in a package of more than a dozen nominees whose confirmation had been agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans. Mr. Brownback’s objections held up the whole roster of nominees.

Mr. Brownback said that when Judge Neff was renominated in January, he would insist only that the nomination not be approved in a voice vote, but one in which each senator is obliged to record a personal vote.



Would the Senator's logic also apply if a judicial nominee went to a religious gathering, and another Senator demanded that the nominee recuse themselves from any cases re: the establishment clause?

I hope this guy makes a huge, well-funded run for President. It will provide lots of comedy material.

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