Adeel Mangi testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Dec. 13, 2023. (Senate Judiciary Committee/Screenshot)
Adeel Mangi testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Dec. 13, 2023. (Senate Judiciary Committee/Screenshot)

Jewish groups object to GOP’s treatment of Muslim nominee for Court of Appeals seat

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A number of national Jewish groups have come to the defense of a Muslim judicial nominee, saying Republican lawmakers inappropriately grilled him about his views on terrorism, Israel and antisemitism.

Adeel Mangi, a New Jersey lawyer who would be the first Muslim to serve on a federal appellate court, faced fierce questioning from GOP senators during his Dec. 13 confirmation hearing for his association with the Rutgers University Law School’s Center for Security, Race and Rights.

Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas repeatedly asked Mangi if he endorsed a 2021 statement signed by the center’s director, Sahar Aziz, describing Israel as a settler colonial state and supporting Palestinian resistance, and a 2021 event marking the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that included as a speaker Sami Al-Arian, who was convicted of material support for a terrorist organization unconnected to the attacks.

Mangi, who specializes in corporate law and who has successfully litigated a number of civil rights cases, answered that he did not know of the statement or the event; in his capacity from 2019-2023 as a member of the advisory board to the center, his role was to meet once a year to advise on areas of academic inquiry, he said. He condemned terrorism, specifically the Sept. 11 attacks, which he witnessed, and the Oct. 7 Hamas massacres of Israeli civilians. Regarding the statement signed by Aziz, he said Middle East policy was not in his purview as a judicial nominee.

The American Jewish Committee in a Dec. 21 statement called on the Senate to disregard the “untoward implications” in the GOP senators’ line of questioning. A separate Dec. 18 letter spearheaded by the National Council of Jewish Women endorsed Mangi. Both groups have joined Mangi in civil rights-related Supreme Court amicus briefs.

“Mangi was questioned aggressively on thin pretext about his views on Israel, terrorism, and antisemitism, turning these serious issues into a tool of partisan attack,” the AJC statement said, noting that he condemned those phenomena.

“We expect that senators will disregard the untoward implications underlying that unnecessary and unhelpful line of questioning,” it said. “Elected officials should take a leadership role in calming the fears of and against American religious minorities, such as Jews and Muslims, not stoke them.”

The NCJW-led letter was signed by, among other groups, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal; Zioness, a pro-Israel women’s group; Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, a social justice advocacy group; and Jewish Women International.

“Having ethical and unbiased judges is ingrained in our Jewish teachings in which we are taught that ‘judges need to be people of strength through good deeds,’” the letter said. “It is clear to us that Adeel A. Mangi is a person of strength and good deeds, as evidenced by his career, devotion to his community, and commitment to religious freedom and civil rights.”

President Joe Biden nominated Mangi to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Nov. 27. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), who introduced Mangi at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, called him a “preeminent litigator with a brilliant legal mind…. His accomplished record of appellate advocacy, combined with his steadfast commitment to serving vulnerable, voiceless clients pro bono, demonstrates his dedication to the cause of justice.”

Mangi is a partner at Patterson Bellknap.

Ron Kampeas

Ron Kampeas is the D.C. bureau chief at the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.