The Senate Judiciary Committee today approved Thomas Griffith for a seat on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Griffith was approved 14-4, with Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy (VT), Edward Kennedy (MA), Joseph Biden (DE) and Russell Feingold (WI) voting against him. Griffith will now face a full Senate vote.
Griffith is a staunch opponent of Title IX, the landmark 1972 federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. He served on President Bush’s so-called Commission on Opportunity in Athletics, which was stacked with opponents of Title IX and ultimately recommended measures that would have weakened enforcement of the law. However, because of the outpouring of support from women’s groups and women athletes, President Bush was ultimately forced to instead reaffirm Title IX.
“[Griffith’s] judgment is brought into serious question by his views on Title IX of our civil rights laws. This charter of fundamental fairness has been the engine for overcoming discrimination against women in education and the growth of women’s athletics,” said Senator Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, in a statement before the committee vote. “I urge all Senators to think about our daughters and granddaughters, the pride they felt when the US women’s soccer team began winning gold medals and World Cups, the joy they see in young women with the opportunity to play basketball and ski and compete and grow.”
Griffith has also been widely criticized for failing to obtain a license to practice law in Utah when he served as a lawyer for Brigham Young University. When questioned about this at last month at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, he said that he never thought he needed to obtain a Utah law license. Griffith also said that he lost his DC law license because he did not pay bar association dues.
Griffith is one of 12 controversial circuit court picks renominated by President Bush in February, seven of whom had previously been filibustered. Griffith was first nominated in June 2004, but was never voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals is considered the most powerful federal appeals court because it has jurisdiction over federal legislation, including Title IX. The Feminist Majority joined over 30 women’s and civil rights groups last month in calling upon US senators to oppose Griffith’s nomination.