Nomination of D. Michael Fisher

Media 10.14,03

Recipient: Senate Judiciary Committee

The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
152 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senators Hatch and Leahy:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition with more than 180 member organizations, we write to express our opposition to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of the nomination of D. Michael Fisher to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Mr. Fisher’s record as attorney general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and as an advocate, raises serious questions about his fitness to serve on the court. We write to you today, however, to express concern about the appropriateness of proceeding with Mr. Fisher’s nomination given the civil rights ruling against him and a possible appeal to the Third Circuit.

As you may know, Fisher has been found by a jury to have violated the federal civil rights of Pennsylvania state employees. A federal jury ruled against Mr. Fisher and assessed him $225,000 in damages for maliciously or wantonly violating the civil rights of two narcotics agents who were transferred after they refused to quash an investigation. Fisher’s spokesperson announced that he plans to appeal the decision, and the appeal would be heard by the Third Circuit – the very court to which Fisher has been nominated.

Less than three months after the civil rights ruling, Fisher was nominated by the White House to serve on the Third Circuit. The nomination – in light of the ruling – raises two grave concerns for LCCR. First, it is quite unusual for a nominee to be confirmed for a seat on a court before which an appeal involving the nominee will be heard. Second, the nature of the ruling that serves as the basis for the appeal is highly troubling. Although an adverse civil rights ruling does not appear to give the administration pause, we believe it raises questions about Mr. Fisher’s commitment to advancing and protecting the civil rights of all Americans under the law. Those concerns are only heightened given Fisher’s troubling record with regard to the separation of church and state, equity for gays and lesbians, and the death penalty.

For these reasons, LCCR opposes continued consideration of the nomination of D. Michael Fisher to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Zirkin at (202) 263-2880.

Thank you for your consideration.


Wade Henderson
Executive Director
Nancy Zirkin
Deputy Director

cc: Senate Judiciary Committee