The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the controversial Court of Appeals judgeship nomination of Patricia M. Wald but deferred action on another nominee, a Memphis judge who has refused to resign from an all-white club.
Three Republican members of the committee announced they opposed Wald's nomination, though there was no roll-call vote. She became a controversial figure because of her outspoken stands on the rights of children.
Bailey Brown, a veteran District Court judge from Tennessee encountered no opposition in June 20 hearing for a new seat on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In fact, he won a glowing endorsement from Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.), a black congressman from Memphis.
But since the hearing, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund has mounted a campaign to delay the vote and put pressure on Brown to resign his membership in the University Club of Memphis.
Eric Schnapper, a defense fund representative in New York, said yesterday that two recent nominees for seats on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said at their recent hearings that they would resign memberships in similar all-white clubs.
"You've have thought his kind of issue was over," Schnapper said. "But now he's challenging the committee's structure, he's calling their bluff. If he's confirmed without resigning it will be a signal to the country that racial intolerance is all right."
Spokesmen for Ford and Sen. James Sasser (D-Tenn.) said yesterday that the two members support Brown because of his record in 18 years on the bench. There also have been indications that some black leaders in Memphis didn't oppose Brown because they hope a black will be picked to fill his seat on the District Court.
A committee aide said yesterday that several members, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chairman, were concerned about Brown's refusal to resign from the club. Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) moved yesterday to have the vote on Brown delayed a week.
Several members were described as "dismayed" on hearing Brown's answers to questions from Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) about the club. Brown said it would be "counterproductive" for him to resign, since he could be more persuasive working inside.
But when asked what he'd done to encourage the club to take black members, Brown replied that he didn't feel he should lobby on a matter that might come before him as a judge.
The Judiciary Committee has scheduled another day of hearings Thursday on the nomination of Rep. Abner Mikva (D-Ill.) to join Wald on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Mikva's nomination has been opposed strongly by the National Rifle Association because of his stand for gun control.