Editorial Memorandum: Opposition to Judge Pickering and Charges of Irresponsiblity and Race-Baiting

It has been charged that opponents of Judge Pickering's confirmation have unfairly focused on a law review article that Pickering wrote as a law student in 1959.

The Facts

Pickering's law review article has been only one element of a much broader record examined by the judge's critics: it does not appear, for example, until 10 pages into People For the American Way's report on his record. Moreover, we have raised concerns not primarily about the substance of the 1959 article but about Pickering's much more recent efforts to minimize the article as a judicial nominee in 1990 and in 2001 and 2002 as a sitting judge seeking elevation to the Fifth Circuit.

Although Pickering continues to dismiss the article as a long-ago "academic exercise" and many media reports have accepted that characterization at face value, the article was far more than that. There was nothing "academic" at all about these laws, which harmed real people, or about Pickering's advice to the legislature that the state law making interracial marriage a felony punishable by up to ten years in prison "should" be amended, or about the fact that the legislature did amend the law as he had suggested, making it enforceable. The fact that Pickering, to this day, could give the responses that he gave the Judiciary Committee when asked about this article has further revealed a disturbing insensitivity and indifference to civil rights concerns reflected in his record as a state Senator and as a federal judge.

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