June 30, 2011

Leahy Owes Apology for Jewish Remarks

Today, the Committee for Justice sent a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, demanding a clarification and apology for remarks he made about Jewish organizations last week, while discussing the nomination of Michael Simon to be a federal judge. Simon was later confirmed by the Senate.

The letter focuses on Sen. Leahy’s suggestion that Simon’s critics are anti-Semitic and also discusses Leahy’s reference to the ACLU as one of "several Jewish organizations." The letter concludes that Leahy’s remarks “raise questions and demand a clarification and apology.”

Full text of the letter:

June 30, 2011

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
437 Russell Senate Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Re: Remarks about Jewish organizations

Dear Sen. Leahy,

While discussing the nomination of Michael Simon to the United States District Court on June 21, you made remarks about “Jewish organizations” that demand a clarification and apology. In questioning the motives of Republican Senators who opposed Simon’s confirmation, you said on the Senate floor:
"What was it Mr. Simon did wrong? He filed amicus briefs on behalf of several Jewish organizations. This is now going to be something that says you cannot be a federal judge if you filed amicus briefs on behalf of several Jewish organizations, including the first amendment on behalf of the ACLU. … That’s what they're saying. File briefs on behalf of these Jewish organizations, file briefs on behalf of religious minorities, and somehow that makes him unfit to be a federal judge?"
The truth is that none of Simon’s critics in the Senate said or suggested anything like “you cannot be a federal judge if you filed amicus briefs on behalf of several Jewish organizations.” In fact, with the exception of your remarks, no senator mentioned such briefs in any context and Mr. Simon did not disclose any such briefs to the Senate.

It appears that you were grasping at straws to suggest that Mr. Simon’s critics are anti-Semitic. As the head of an organization that has been critical of judicial nominees’ ties to the ACLU and other liberal activist groups, I find the suggestion that such critics are motivated by anti-Semitism to be offensive.

Moreover, I am concerned that your remarks, taken on their face, imply that the ACLU is one of the "several Jewish organizations.” Perhaps that is not what you meant, but I am sure you understand why Jewish Americans like me are concerned by even inadvertent suggestions that Jews control certain institutions.

In sum, your remarks about Mr. Simon raise questions and demand a clarification and apology.

Sincerely,

Curt Levey
Executive Director
Committee for Justice

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