Jewish Groups Hail Senate Rebuff of Judge Faulted on Civil Rights

American Jewish groups hailed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision Thursday to reject the nomination of Judge Kenneth Ryskamp for a seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The committee voted 8-6, along party lines, to kill the nomination amid controversy over Ryskamp’s civil rights record and recent membership in a Florida country club that allegedly discriminates against Jews, women and racial minorities.

The committee later deadlocked 7-7 on a motion to send his nomination to the full Senate without a recommendation. The tie, which occurred when Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) joined the committee’s six Republicans, means Ryskamp’s nomination will not be sent to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Samuel Rabinove, legal director of the American Jewish Committee, said he was “pleased that the majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee did the right thing.”

“The Democrats are more sensitive to civil rights concerns in general than the Republicans,” Rabinove observed.

He called Ryskamp “rather oblivious to civil rights concerns” and said the federal district court judge’s “lack of sensitivity” was demonstrated when he repeatedly claimed that the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, Fla., was not discriminatory.

Ryskamp joined the club in 1968 and quit March 13, the week before his confirmation hearings.

Arthur Teitelbaum, Southern area director of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, said the committee’s action “sent the important message that membership in a discriminatory club is unacceptable.”

The American Jewish Congress, which, like the other two defense agencies, testified against Ryskamp’s confirmation, told the panel in March that it was struck by the number of civil rights cases in which Ryskamp’s district court rulings were reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Robert Lifton, AJCongress national president, said Thursday that the vote “sends a clear signal to the Bush administration that its judicial nominees must demonstrate a commitment to equal justice under law.”

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