Unlike many of President Clinton’s nominees to the federal bench who were never even given a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee when it was controlled by Republicans, Charles Pickering received not one but two hearings before the Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Leahy. These hearings, and in particular the second hearing, which was held on Feb. 7, 2002 after many of Judge Pickering’s numerous unpublished opinions had been made available, afforded Judge Pickering an opportunity to respond to serious concerns raised by Senators about his record as a federal judge and prior to that as a state legislator. Pickering failed to make a case that his record merited his elevation to a lifetime seat on the Fifth Circuit.
Not only did Judge Pickering’s testimony fail to resolve troubling issues that People For the American Way and others had raised about his record, but questioning by Senators also revealed several important new and disturbing ethical and related issues involving his conduct as a federal judge. In addition, as to certain matters about which he was questioned, Pickering was, at best, less than forthcoming with the Committee. When these problems were combined with his troubling record on a range of important civil and constitutional rights issues, both before and after becoming a judge, the case against Pickering’s confirmation became and remains overwhelming.
Judge Pickering’s testimony concerning the following aspects of his record was particularly significant: