LCCR Letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Opposing the Nomination of James Leon Holmes

Media 05.1.03

Recipient: Senate

The Honorable Orrin G. Hatch
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
104 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Hatch:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we write to express our opposition to the confirmation of James Leon Holmes to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

LCCR is very troubled by past statements made by Mr. Holmes that call into question his commitment to rule on issues important to the civil rights community in a fair and unbiased manner. Of particular concern is a 1997 article co-authored by Holmes, in which he subscribes to the view that a wife’s obligation is to “subordinate herself to her husband” and “place herself under the authority of the man.” We believe that the beliefs reflected in this article raise grave doubts as to his impartiality on important issues of gender equity and women’s rights.

Given his past statements, the ability of Mr. Holmes to rule fairly on important issues regarding racial equality is also not credible. A 1981 article authored by Mr. Holmes speaks favorably of disturbing and regressive views espoused long ago by Booker T. Washington. Among them, Holmes passes favorably on Washington’s “de-emphasis” of political activity for African Americans, stating that Washington “was able to regard unjust segregation laws with more equanimity than others” because spiritual rather than political “liberation” was of ultimate importance. In the article, Holmes even seems to regard favorably Washington’s opposition to efforts to gain rights for African Americans when those efforts might exacerbate racial antagonism. As such, Mr. Holmes’ views raise serious questions about his ability to rule fairly and impartially on issues such as school desegregation, voting rights and affirmative action.

Finally, we must take issue with Mr. Holmes’ statements regarding the treatment of minorities in the criminal justice system, including in the context of the death penalty. For example, in a 1990 article, Mr. Holmes relied on badly flawed logic to dismiss concerns about racial disparities in the imposition of the death penalty, by suggesting that “a disproportionate number of death row inmates are poor and minorities, but so are the victims.” He has also stated that “it seems unfair” for convicted murderers to do such things as writing their families from behind bars even though their victims cannot. Given these attitudes, we must seriously question how Mr. Holmes would be able to rule fairly and impartially in a case, for example, in which evidence is raised which strongly questions whether the death penalty is being applied in an evenhanded manner, or in which incarcerated persons turn to the courts for help in addressing violations of their civil and human rights while they are in custody.

Mr. Holmes is certainly entitled to his personal opinions. Unfortunately, however, we have seen little to convince us that Mr. Holmes will be able to insulate his duties as a neutral arbiter of the law from his deeply-held personal views. We are particularly concerned when these views raise doubts about his commitment to advancing and protecting the equality of all Americans under the law. For this reason, LCCR must ask you to oppose the confirmation of James Leon Holmes to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Deputy Director/Director of Public Policy at (202) 263-2880, or Julie Fernandes, LCCR Senior Policy Analyst at (202) 263-2856.

Thank you for your consideration.


Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Wade Henderson
Executive Director

cc: Senate Judiciary Committee