Judiciary Committee Rejects Pickering's Promotion

Record on constitutional and civil rights principles generated intense opposition; future judicial nomination battles will depend on White House actions

The Senate Judiciary Committee today rejected President Bush’s nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

“Judge Pickering was defeated by his own record as a federal judge and state senator,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “That record convinced a majority of senators on the Judiciary Committee that he should not be promoted to the appeals court.”

Neas said reducing future acrimony over judicial nominations would require a bipartisan approach and a commitment to genuine dialogue that the White House has not yet been willing to make. He said President Bush should consult with senators from both parties and seek out nominees who demonstrate an understanding of and commitment to civil and constitutional rights.

“Today’s vote is a victory for Americans opposed to right-wing domination of the federal courts,” said Neas. “The Senate Judiciary Committee should continue to give priority to nominees who have bipartisan support and should continue to reject nominees who pose a threat to civil rights protections, reproductive choice, environmental protection and other important constitutional and legal principles.”

Neas praised the Judiciary Committee majority for ignoring efforts to deflect attention from Pickering’s record by claiming that the judge had been the victim of an unfair smear campaign. “All the right-wing attacks and distortions could not change the facts, which were examined carefully and discussed in two open public hearings. Senator Leahy and other members of the Judiciary Committee majority stood up to Trent Lott’s threats and intimidation and took a principled stand based on Judge Pickering’s record and on the important issues at stake.”

Neas also praised the broad coalition of local, state, and national organizations that documented Pickering’s record and mobilized in opposition to the nomination. “I am extremely proud to be part the broad community of advocates who made the commitment to stand up and fight this threat to civil and constitutional rights,” he said. “And I am especially grateful to those citizens of Mississippi who took the courageous step of publicly opposing a sitting federal judge.”

The Judiciary Committee also rejected efforts to send the nomination to the floor even though it had been rejected by committee members. Review a detailed discussion of that issue.

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