Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Re: Leahy’s Litmus Test


If you want to see what kind of judge earned Senator Leahy’s approval as “a judge of proven competence, temperament, and fairness” and “an excellent choice,” take Lee Sarokin. Please!

In 1994, President Clinton nominated then-district judge Sarokin to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. As Senator Hatch accurately stated at the time, Sarokin had earned a reputation as a stridently liberal judicial activist. Indeed, Sarokin described himself as a “flaming liberal” as a judge. The Third Circuit had lambasted Sarokin for “judicial usurpation of power,” for ignoring “fundamental concepts of due process,” for destroying the appearance of judicial impartiality, and for “superimpos[ing his] own view of what the law should be in the face of the Supreme Court’s contrary precedent.” The New Jersey Law Journal had reported that Sarokin “may be the most reversed federal judge in New Jersey when it comes to major cases.” A broad range of police and victim’s groups announced their opposition to his nomination.

In a wildly lawless ruling, Sarokin declared that the Morristown public library couldn’t enforce its written policies to expel a homeless man who regularly engaged in offensive and disruptive behavior and whose odor was so offensive that it prevented the library patrons from using certain areas of the library and prohibited library employees from performing their jobs. “[O]ne person’s hay-fever is another person’s ambrosia” was among Sarokin’s justifications for preventing a community from setting even minimal standards. Here’s a fuller memo on this case and Sarokin’s broader record that Senator Hatch submitted on the Senate floor.

With Leahy’s support, Sarokin was confirmed to the Third Circuit a mere five months after his nomination.


Subscribe to National Review