The Committee for Justice (CFJ) commented today on Senate Democrats’ recent history of obstructing all white male appeals court nominees from the South, including Leslie Southwick of Mississippi, a Fifth Circuit nominee scheduled for a Judiciary Committee vote this Thursday.
“Senate Democrats and their allies on the left have attacked Judge Southwick for being insensitive to ‘the rights of African Americans, gays and lesbians,'” explained CFJ executive director Curt Levey. “If this sounds familiar, it’s because they level the same charges whenever the President nominates a white male from a southern state to the U.S. Courts of Appeal.”
“Seven times President Bush has nominated a southern white male to the appeals courts, and seven times Senate Democrats have tried to block the nomination,” said Levey. “Worse yet, each of the seven have been subjected to a campaign of personal destruction. With one exception – Fourth Circuit nominee William Haynes – the attacks focus on charges that the nominee is insensitive to the rights of minorities, women, gays, and/or the disabled. Democrats and their allies cynically play to the stereotype that southerners are racist or otherwise bigoted.” Examples are provided below.
Citing the nomination of Leon Holmes of Arkansas, Levey added that “the one time Senate Democrats chose to vilify and obstruct a Bush district court nominee, the victim was – you guessed it – a southern white male, and the charges were the usual ones: racism and sexism.”
Levey pointed out that “Senate Democrats and their allies never let the facts get in the way of playing the race card. Just look at Fifth Circuit nominee Charles Pickering. The brother of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers praised Pickering for risking his career in 1967 when he ‘dared to defy the Klan.’ But that didn’t stop this bunch from denouncing Pickering for ‘insensitivity and even hostility’ towards civil rights.”
“Somewhere in the offices of Ralph Neas or Chuck Schumer there’s probably a play book for targeting southern white men,” Levey said. “After all, the process works the same every time. First, Democratic staffers and groups like People for the American Way comb through hundreds or thousands of cases the nominee has worked on as a judge or lawyer, cherry picking the few that they can distort into charges of bigotry. Then the groups publish a report denouncing the nominee’s record. Finally, Senate Democrats cite the ‘evidence’ in the report as the reason they must oppose the nominee. Leslie Southwick is just the latest victim of this routine.”
“Judiciary Committee memos disclosed in 2003 remove any doubt that Senate Democrats and groups on the left work together closely to defeat or delay judicial nominees,” Levey noted. “It’s one thing for these outside groups to believe that southern white men can’t be fair judges, but one would hope that Democratic senators would distance themselves from such extreme views. Instead they’ve pandered to these groups for years now.”
“The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have a chance to redeem themselves this Thursday when they vote on Southwick,” said Levey. “All we’re asking is that they vote him out of committee so that the full Senate can decide whether to confirm him. Anything less is obstruction. The Democrats chose not to put any southerners on the Judiciary Committee, but that’s all the more reason why they shouldn’t thumb their noses at the South by blocking this exceptionally qualified nominee.”
Levey concluded by noting that “if Democrats kill this nomination in committee, it will be particularly interesting to see what Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott does, given that Southwick and two of the southerners targeted earlier are from Mississippi. Senator Lott threatened a ‘total shutdown’ of the Senate after it became clear that committee Democrats were trying to stop Southwick. As whip, he can make the shutdown happen.”
Typical examples of the predictable charges against white male nominees from the South:
Terrence Boyle (4th Circuit): “Judge Boyle’s record [shows] extreme disregard for the civil rights and civil liberties of racial minorities, women, the disabled, and many other Americans.” – People for the American Way (PFAW)
Michael Wallace (5th Circuit): “He has a ‘blindspot’ concerning issues affecting minorities.” – PFAW
Dennis Shedd (4th Circuit): “Judge Shedd has exhibited a high level of insensitivity on issues of race.” – PFAW
Charles Pickering (5th Circuit): Pickering’s record “reflects insensitivity and even hostility toward key principles and remedies that now safeguard civil rights.” – PFAW
William Pryor (11th Circuit): “He has a record of virulent hostility to the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.” – PFAW
Leslie Southwick (5th Circuit): “Southwick’s troubling record on the rights of African Americans, gays and lesbians.” – PFAW
J. Leon Holmes (E. District Arkansas): Holmes has “lashed out at contraception, against women generally, and against the rights of gays and lesbians.” – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
The Committee for Justice is a non-partisan, non- profit organization devoted to promoting constitutionalist judicial nominees and the rule of law.
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