LCCR and AFJ Letter to Senators Reid and Leahy Regarding the Nomination of Judge Leslie H. Southwick to the U.S. Court of Appeals

Recipient: Senator Harry Reid and Senator Patrick Leahy

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Chairman Leahy:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Alliance For Justice (AFJ), national coalitions whose member groups speak on behalf of tens of millions of Americans, we write to express our great dismay over the process being adopted by the Senate to consider judicial nominees, including Judge Leslie H. Southwick to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Because the Senate and the American public were not able to adequately scrutinize Judge Southwick’s long record before today’s confirmation hearing, we urge the Senate to hold an additional hearing before taking any further action on his nomination.

We are particularly troubled that Judge Southwick has not yet released hundreds of unpublished and otherwise unavailable decisions in cases where he joined an opinion during his tenure on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The opinions that he joined can be just as revealing as opinions that he himself authored. For example, in one publicly available opinion, Judge Southwick joined the majority in holding that because the use of a racial epithet at a workplace “was not motivated out of racial hatred or racial animosity” and did not cause a disruption, it did not justify an employee’s discharge – a position that ignored the inherent destructiveness of such language. Also disturbing is Judge Southwick’s record of voting consistently in favor of powerful corporate interests in cases involving the rights of workers and consumers.

Given the lifetime nature of federal judicial appointments, and the tremendous impact that federal judges have on the civil rights and liberties of all Americans, we believe the Senate has a solemn responsibility to scrutinize the records and the views of nominees as closely as possible. Because this scrutiny has yet to take place with respect to the nomination of Judge Southwick, we ask that the Senate refrain from taking any further action until the Judiciary Committee has held an additional hearing that focuses on his entire record, and not merely the parts of his record that he has chosen to make available.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Director of Public Policy, at 202-263-2880.


Wade Henderson, President & CEO                                      Nan Aron, Executive Director
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights                                 Alliance For Justice