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Judicial Nominations: Reform Movement Perspective and Action

Jewish Values

Jewish tradition teaches the importance of fair and impartial courts. In Exodus 18:21, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, advises him to chose capable, trustworthy, and law abiding members of society to judge the people. Elsewhere we are taught of the ethical obligation to oppose unjust persons and unfair judgments; judges should neither “favor the poor [n]or show deference to the rich” (Leviticus 19:15). 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. We also have a responsibility to create a legal system that strives for balance and that treats all people equitably.

The Reform Jewish Movement

Because federal courts at all levels play a critical role in safeguarding our fundamental freedoms, the Union for Reform Judaism and Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) have adopted resolutions that guide the review of judicial nominees and empower the Reform Jewish Movement 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."

In 2017, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform Rabbinic leadership organization, resolved to “to oppose or support a nominee on behalf of the CCAR if, after consideration of what the nominee has said and written, and his or her record, they believe that a compelling case can be made that the appointment would uphold or threaten protection of the most fundamental rights which our Conference supports, rooted in our understanding of Torah – including, but not limited to, the separation of church and state, protection of civil rights and civil liberties, racial justice, LGBTQ rights, climate justice, women’s reproductive freedom, and Israel’s security.”
 
These procedures for evaluating judicial nominees allow the Reform Movement a voice in public debates over nominees if core values of the Reform Jewish Movement are at stake.
 
Reform Movement Policy:
CCAR:
 
URJ