Senator in Flap Over Nominee

By E.B. Solomont

Published July 08, 2005, issue of July 08, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A conservative activist is coming under fire for claiming that a Jewish senator is blocking an Arab American judicial nominee because of his ethnicity.

Victoria Toensing, a Washington attorney who sometimes speaks on behalf of the conservative judicial advocacy group Committee for Justice, reportedly accused Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, of “executing a vendetta” against Judge Henry Saad of Michigan. She noted that the Democratic senator from Michigan is Jewish and Saad is Arab American.

The accusation — reported July 1 in The Washington Post — marks a new chapter in the opposition that Saad, a Michigan Court of Appeals judge, has faced from Democrats since President Bush nominated him to the Sixth Circuit Court in November 2001.

But with no evidence that Levin’s opposition is ethnically based, critics are describing Toensing’s criticism as a deliberate smear against Levin in an attempt to discredit his opposition to Saad’s confirmation.

“The Conservative right have been using this tactic on various nominees,” said Ira N. Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. “They take any questioning or opposition to those nominees…to say that the Democrats who are opposing are somehow bigoted, racist, antisemitic.”

Even officials at the Committee for Justice rejected the claim that Levin is motivated by an ethnic bias. They said that Toensing is not officially associated with the advocacy group.

Arab-Americans also rejected the bias claim.

“Knowing Carl Levin for years, as a friend and as an elected official, he is way beyond a statement like that. On the contrary,” said Imad Hamad, regional director of Michigan’s Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Toensing did not return calls seeking comment.

Levin, along with fellow Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, has played a pivotal role in blocking Saad’s judicial promotion. Following a bipartisan compromise on long-filibustered judges in late May, several previously stalled nominees — including William Pryor, Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown — were confirmed last month. Saad, as well as William Myers of Idaho, is still being blocked.

According to spokespeople for both Levin and Stabenow, the senators oppose Saad’s nomination in particular because his “judicial temperament falls below the standard of nominees to the second-highest court in the country.”

A spokeswoman for Stabenow pointed to Saad’s record as an attorney, defending employers in employee-claims suits, and said that his higher courts have often reversed his judicial decisions. The Stabenow spokeswoman also highlighted an e-mail circulated by Saad that referred disparagingly to Stabenow, as well as potentially more serious, undisclosed details about Saad that have turned up in a routine background check of judicial nominees by the FBI.

Committee for Justice officials criticized the effort to block Saad’s nomination, though they rejected Toensing’s claims about bias.

“Senator Levin is still upset by the fact that his cousin-in-law, Helene White,” a judicial nominee who is married to Levin’s cousin, “was not confirmed during the Clinton administration,” said Sean Rushton, executive director of Committee for Justice. “If there’s any vendetta, that’s the vendetta.”

Hamad refrained from criticizing Levin at all, though he said that many Arab Americans would like to see an Arab-American judge on a high-level bench. “They see it as an overdue right and privilege to serve our great nation,” he said. Hamad added: “At the same time, we stress that ethnicity is not the only reason for it. We would like to see an Arab American judge who is fair and open minded, whose record speaks for itself.”

Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different.
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.