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Bush nominee approved as federal judge
Creeps on the bench

By Elizabeth Schulte | June 7, 2002 | Page 2

U.S. SENATORS showed just what an old boys' club they are when the Judiciary Committee approved right-wing sleaze D. Brooks Smith as a federal circuit court judge. Democrats provided the margin of victory for George W. Bush's nominee to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

Smith is currently a federal district court judge in Western Pennsylvania. Appointed to that seat by Ronald Reagan, he's a longtime member of the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club, a club that bars women from the facilities.

In 1998, Smith was confronted about belonging to the club--and promised that if he was unable to get the bylaws changed, he'd quit. Instead, Smith kept his membership for more than a decade.

Not surprisingly, Smith opposed the Violence Against Women Act, which allows victims of sexual assaults to sue their attackers--and spoke out on the topic at a meeting of the right-wing Federalist Society in 1993.

But there's much, much more about Smith to dislike. Over the years, the appeals court that he's been nominated to join has reversed his decisions more than 50 times.

Take the 1995 case in which the federal government sued the state of Pennsylvania over substandard conditions in a home for the mentally retarded. Although, in Smith's own words, conditions were "frequently not optimal" at the home--maggots were found in one resident's ear--he ruled that the state had no constitutional obligation to require that conditions be improved.

In 1997, Smith oversaw the trial of Mid-State Bank when it was implicated in defrauding dozens of Pennsylvania schools and municipalities. Even though his wife Karen was a Mid-State Bank officer, it took him a month to take himself off the case.

In another of his overturned rulings, Smith threw out a suit by the parents of a 15-month-old child who sued Playskool after their child choked to death on a toy.

Then there's Smith's string of anti-worker decisions--like the one involving the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefit Act. He ruled that forcing a company to pay benefits that retired miners had rightfully earned constituted an illegal taking of the company's property.

This is the type of slimy character that Bush wants running every court in the land. And Democrats are helping him do it. As Sen. Joe Biden Jr. (D-Del.) put it, "I'd like to vote against this guy, [but] I don't have a sufficient reason."

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