LCCR Applauds Senate Judiciary Committee’s Rejection of Pickering Nomination

Media 03.14.02

LCCR Applauds Senate Judiciary Committee’s Rejection of Pickering Nomination

Pledges To Work With White House To Confirm Fair And Impartial Jurists

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brian Komar

March 13, 2002
Washington, DC – Wade Henderson, Executive Director, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, issued the following statement today regarding the Senate Judiciary Committee’s rejection of Charles W. Pickering’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Several weeks ago, at the urging of local civil rights advocates from the State of Mississippi, the LCCR began a review of the nomination of Charles W. Pickering, President Bush’s selection for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (covering Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana).

Our exhaustive and careful review of Judge Pickering public record — from law student to state legislator to judge — left us with little alternative but to oppose his nomination because of his extreme views on important civil rights, women’s rights and constitutional issues.

For example:

  • In the 1970s, state Sen. Pickering twice voted for a reapportionment plan that would increase the number of senators per district and thereby dilute voting strength of people of color.

  • In 1993, Judge Pickering published an opinion questioning the ‘one-person-one vote’ doctrine as ‘obtrusive.’ Criticizing court-ordered redistricting, the expense to taxpayers, and the disruption of customs such as voting along county or municipal lines, Pickering wondered ‘if we are not giving the people more government than they want and more than is required in defining one-man, one-vote too precisely.’ (Fairley v. Forrest Count, 814 F. Supp. 1327 (S.D. Miss. 1993)

  • As a district court judge, Charles Pickering has often made extraneous statements showing his disdain for plaintiffs in race discrimination suits. For example, in cases such as Seeley v. City of Hattiesburg, No. 2:96-CV-327PG, and Johnson v. South Mississippi Home Health, No. 2:95-CV-367PG, he used identical language in both opinions describing these cases as having ‘all the hallmarks of a case that is filled simply because an adverse employment decision was made in regard to a protected minority.’

Most disturbing to us, however, was Judge Pickering’s handling of a 1994 case involving three men convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple. In attempting to reduce the sentence of one of the defendants, Judge Pickering contorted the law and displayed questionable judicial ethnics.

Accordingly, LCCR and other local and national community leaders undertook a campaign to educate the American public, the press and the Congress about Judge Pickering’s disturbing record. The American public responded by flooding Congress and the Senate Judiciary Committee in particular, with phone calls and letters urging the rejection of Judge Pickering’s nomination. We applaud the Senate Judiciary Committee for exercising its constitutional prerogative in rejecting this nominee.

Contrary to some press accounts, our campaign against Judge Pickering’s confirmation was not a personal attack, but rather, a substantive critique of his judicial philosophy and record as a public official.

LCCR strongly believes that the composition of the federal judiciary is a civil rights issue of profound importance to all Americans, because the individuals charged with dispensing justice in our society have a direct impact on civil rights protections for us all.

As such, the federal judiciary must be perceived by the public as an instrument of justice, and the individuals who are selected for this branch of government must be the embodiment of fairness and impartiality.

This nation requires jurists who will have a moderating influence on the Court. The Leadership Conference stands ready to work with President Bush to confirm such nominees.”