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Executive Branch, Judicial and Independent Agency Nominations: Reform Movement Perspective and Action

Jewish Values

Rabbi Yitzhak taught, “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (B’rachot 55a). The process for nominating and confirming federal appointees has opportunities for citizens to be consulted. As Reform Jews, we must be active in the nominations process; those who lead federal agencies, have important leadership positions, and sit on the federal bench help shape the policies that impact the many social justice issues to which we are dedicated.

Jewish tradition underscores the importance of fair and impartial courts. In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, advises him to choose capable, trustworthy, and law abiding members of society to judge the people. Further, in an often-quoted passage in Deuteronomy, God proclaims to the people of Israel, "you shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. Justice, justice, shall you pursue" (16:19-20). The responsibility to pursue justice extends beyond ensuring that we, ourselves, are behaving justly and judging fairly; to create a legal system that strives for balance and that treats all people equitably.

The Reform Jewish Movement

Due to the important role Senate-confirmable nominees play in shaping our nation’s policies and interpreting our nation’s laws, the Union for Reform Judaism has adopted resolutions that guide the review of judicial, executive branch and independent agency nominees and empower the URJ to speak out in opposition to or support of a nominee.

In 2002, the Union resolved to “oppose a nominee if after consideration of what the nominee has said and written and his or her record, it believes that a compelling case can be made that the appointment would threaten protection of the most fundamental rights which our Movement supports (including, but not limited to, the separation of church and state, protection of civil rights and civil liberties, women’s reproductive freedom, Israel’s security, and protection of the environment).” The resolution directs the Union to consider whether nominees lack the competence, professional qualifications, or ethical standards to serve in the position to which they are nominated.

In 2008, the Union resolved to support nominees who are being attacked or criticized based on "their stated views related to the protection of the fundamental rights that our Movement supports and/or aspects of their personal identities that are irrelevant to their ability to fulfill the responsibilities of the positions to which they are nominated."

These procedures for evaluating nominees allow the URJ a voice in public debates over nominees if core values of the Reform Jewish Movement are at stake.

 

Reform Movement Policy:

CCAR:

URJ
Resolution on Judicial, Executive Branch and Independent Agency Nominations (2002)
Resolution on Opposing the Nomination of Judge Samuel Alito, Jr. to the Supreme Court of the United States (2005)
Resolution on Support for Judicial, Executive Branch and Independent Agency Nominations (2008)