Brownback Continues to Stall Bush Nominee for Giving Homily at Commitment Ceremony 

The Grand Rapids Press updates the on-going saga of the stalled nomination of Janet Neff to serve on the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan.

Sen. Sam Brownback has placed a hold on Neff’s nomination solely because she attended a commitment ceremony for a lesbian couple back in 2002 and wanted some answers

Brownback, R-Kansas, put a hold on Neff’s nomination after he learned about her attendance at the ceremony. He sent her five questions that asked about her participation and her views on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Hmm … demanding a nominee’s views on specific issues is usually the sort of thing Republicans on the Judiciary Committee frown upon – at least they did when it came to John Roberts, when Sen. Jon Kyl insisted that “not every question that a senator might think of is legitimate” and went on to declare that “it is not appropriate for a senator to demand a nominee’s view on issues that are likely to come before the court.”

In fact, that was something Neff pointed that out in her response to Brownback

In the letter, Neff did not answer questions about her views on the issue of gay marriage because, she wrote, “issues related to same-sex marriage, civil unions, or similar relationships, may arise in the courts.”

To answer the specific questions would “speak to questions of law that may come before me as a judge,” she wrote, “contrary to long-standing canons of judicial ethics that prohibit a judge or judicial nominee from prejudging the merits of any pending or impending case, controversy or issue.”

Brownback was apparently so concerned about Neff’s fitness for the bench that he asked for a second hearing on her nomination even though she had already been approved by the Judiciary Committee, but Committee Chair Arlen Specter said no way

“There is no precedent to give a (nominee) who has passed out of committee and being considered on the floor a second hearing,” said Courtney Boone, Judiciary Committee press secretary.

But in an attempt to ease Brownback’s worried mind, Neff did provide an explanation of just what she was doing at this ceremony

She was there in a “personal capacity,” Neff wrote in the letter to Brownback. “I did not lead or otherwise officiate at the Massachusetts ceremony. The ceremony was led by a minister. I participated by giving the homily.”

Neff’s letter said her family and Mary Curtin’s were next-door neighbors for 26 years.

“When Mary Curtin and her partner, Karen Adelman, asked me to participate in their commitment ceremony by delivering a homily, it was not different from being asked by my own daughters to be part of an important event in their lives.”

Neff wrote further: “The ceremony, which was entirely private, took place in Massachusetts, where I had no authority to act in any official capacity, and where, in any event, the ceremony had no legal effect.”

Amazingly, it appears as if Brownback is still not satisfied

The hold on Neff’s nomination remains in place, [Brownback’s spokesman] said.