by Douglas T. Kendall, Executive Director, Community Rights Counsel, and Sean Siperstein, Research and Communications Associate
Many print outlets and well-known bloggers have been covering Friday's nominations to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, focusing on the administration's decision to pass over the bipartisan recommendation made by Virginia Senators John Warner and Jim Webb (both of whom have expressed their strong displeasure), and instead select Duncan Getchell-- a candidate Warner and Webb interviewed, and declined to put on their list.
Lost in the fray, however, have been the equally (if not more) troubling questions raised by last week's second nominee to the Fourth Circuit, South Carolina attorney Steve A. Matthews. One thing that piqued our interest is the fact that Matthews, like Getchell, wasn't initially recommended by his home state's Senators, conservative Republicans Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint. According to The State, the administration settled on Matthews after dismissing the two senators' initial choice, South Carolina Court of Appeals Judge John Kittredge, who was thought to have an easier path to being confirmed.
Our main issue with Matthews, though, isn't merely the process by which he was picked. It's his judgment. In particular, we're concerned with his decision to sit on the board of directors of a group called the Landmark Legal Foundation, which is headed by attorney, author and talk radio host Mark R. Levin. One must be cautious of claims about guilt by association, but Matthews' board position gives him a fiduciary interest in Landmark, and Levin took pains to personally thank Matthews for having "personally supported me in everything that I do" in his bestselling 2005 book, Men in Black: How the Supreme Court is Destroying America.
Thus it seems worthwhile to investigate just what Levin does. It turns out that one of his major concerns is ranting about the threat of global warming-- that is, the threat posed by activists and policymakers who have accepted its reality.
Landmark gained notoriety recently by trying to get Rush Limbaugh nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize as a direct response to Al Gore's nomination for his work on global warming. We say "tried" because, as the NY Times' Tom Zeller, Jr. observed at the time, Landmark was not even in a formal position to put forward candidates for the prize committee's consideration. Their press release called Limbaugh "the foremost advocate for freedom and democracy in the world today."
But to get a true sense of his views, you have to listen to a recent, 10-minute radio diatribe by Levin that calls global warming "nonsense" and "phony." Captured by an enthused Levin fan on YouTube, the broadcast includes (a little over three minutes in) some rather choice words about the Supreme Court's ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, and Justice Stevens in particular, who Levin calls the Court's "oldest justice who knows nothing about science."
According to Levin, the result of Mass. v. EPA will inevitably be that "we will completely change our country for the worse because of this Supreme Court justice, because of left-wing nutcases, and because of the hate of wealth creation, job creation, and opportunities that are provided in this country." Later in this same braodcast, Levin makes clear that, in his opinion, these left-wing nutcases include Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whom he calls a "liberal idiot," and Senator Joe Lieberman, who Levin declares "other than the war, another liberal idiot."
Landmark prides itself on trying to be a thorn in the side of environmental regulators and activists, and our concern is that if confirmed to a lifetime seat on the Court of appeals, Matthews would have the power to do just that. Given the legal agenda that he has endorsed by virtue of his direct affiliation with Landmark, and the process that led to his nomination, Mr. Matthews has some 'splainin to do about his ability to be neutral in environmental cases and his willingness to follow Supreme Court precedents such as Mass. v. EPA.
(Editor's note: Some of the content of this post reflects research initially done by Glenn Sugameli, Senior Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice. Thanks, Glenn! More resources on Matthews, Getchell, and others being considered for the federal judiciary can be found at Judging the Environment, a joint project of Community Rights Counsel and Earthjustice.)