16 Jul 2002 Black Judge Finally Confirmed; After More Than a Year, Senate Democrats Allow Vote on Circuit Court Nominee
Members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 applaud the Senate’s July 15 confirmation of Judge Lavenski R. Smith’s nomination to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, but continue to urge senators to curb the partisan bias that is slowing the pace of the judicial confirmation process and denying nominees positions for which they are supremely qualified.
Judge Smith is the second African-American jurist that the Bush Administration has been able to elevate to a lifetime appointment to America’s second-highest court system. Opposition to Smith’s nomination from liberal special interest groups, along with a slow-down in the confirmation process that began after Senaor Tom Daschle (D-SD) took control of the Senate leadership last year, forced Smith to wait 419 days from the time he was nominated until he was confirmed by an overwhelming voice vote.
“It’s about time that liberal extremists like Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy moved on this important judicial nomination,” said Project 21 National Advisory Council member Kevin Martin. “If a liberal African-American nominee was held up by conservatives in the past, people like Leahy screamed charges of racism. Now these very same people are refusing to even consider conservative African-American nominees. That seems like racism to me.”
Judge Smith began his legal career as a staff attorney for Ozark Legal Services, where he represented some of the poorest residents in the state of Arkansas. He later founded the first minority-owned and operated law firm in Springdale, Arkansas and went on to teach law, serve on the governor’s staff, chair the Arkansas Public Service Commission and ultimately serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court.
So far, just over 30 percent of President Bush’s circuit court nominees and just over half of his district court nominees have been confirmed. During the previous three administrations, an average of 92 percent of circuit court nominees were confirmed in the first two years of each president’s term.
“Until the nominations of qualified judicial nominees like Patricia Owen and Miguel Estrada receive fair hearings and timely votes,” added Martin, “I’ll consider the Senate liberals to be acting in a sexist and racist manner.”
Project 21 has been a leading voice in the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact Chris Burger or David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.