WASHINGTON, DC — The current Senate investigation of leaked strategy memos regarding the judicial nominations process is on the wrong track. The investigation is focusing on who might have leaked the memos rather than their shocking content, which revealed an orchestrated effort to manipulate judicial nominations. The Independent Women’s Forum urges the Senate to launch an investigation of possible violation of law, Senate ethics rules, or Bar Association ethics rules by Senate Democrat staffers who wrote those incriminating documents.

“These memos reveal a truly astonishing level of control exerted by outside organizations over our judicial nomination process,” said Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of IWF. “In one instance, a memo details how the NAACP Legal Defense Fund pushes for nominations to be delayed in hopes of influencing the outcome of a case.? It is critical that these activities are investigated so that moving forward the process is not plagued with such corrupting influences.”

Evidence within the documents includes:

  • A November 2001 memo to Senator Durbin (D-IL) notes how these groups singled out Miguel Estrada in part because of his ethnicity as a target: “He (Miguel Estrada) has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment. They want to hold Estrada off as long as possible.”
  • An April 2002 memo to Senator Kennedy (D-MA) indicates that the NAACP Legal Defense Fund “would like the Committee to hold off on any 6th Circuit nominees until the University of Michigan case regarding the constitutionality of affirmative action in higher education is decided….The thinking is that the current 6th Circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, the new judge will be able, under 6th Circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it.”

    Staff writing the memo admitted concern about “the propriety of scheduling hearings based on the resolution of a particular case,” but continued to recommend that a hearing on a conservative nominee to the 6th Circuit Court be delayed. In fact, the vote on the conservative nominees was delayed until after the Michigan case was decided.

  • Several memos reveal how outside groups and election politics influence the timing of hearings on judicial nominees. For example, a memo to Senator Kennedy stated that “The groups are opposed to having a hearing on him this month in part because they do not believe they will be able to do an adequate review of his extensive record by June 27th, particularly given that they are gearing up to oppose Judge Owen.”

“The press has been sidetracked with questions about how the memos surfaced,” Pfotenhauer noted. “That is being investigated, and no one has yet pointed to a single law or Senate ethics rule that was violated by accessing these memos. It’s time for the press to focus on the real story — the hijacking of our judicial nomination process.”