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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Southwick Continues to Generate Controversy

A week following his hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Leslie Southwick’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals continues to create alarm.

In Mississippi’s Clarion Ledger this week, Eric Stringfellow had an article decrying the lack of diversity on the Fifth Circuit:

[S]ome of the acrimony is not really about Southwick. It's about the outrageous reality that of the last 15 vacancies on the federal bench in Mississippi, 14 were filled by white males and one by a white female.

It's about the reality that there is only one federal judgeship designated for African Americans in Mississippi, and President Reagan filled it in 1985 with Judge Henry T. Wingate. That was more than two decades ago! …

That's not just insensitive. It's outrageous, especially given that if the trend continues, it will be another generation before there is another vacancy on the federal bench in Mississippi. …

Among those who have been touted for the court are U.S. Magistrate Linda Anderson, Lowndes County Chancery Judge Dorothy Colom, law professor Patricia Bennett, LaVerne Edney and Doug Minor. All of these individuals are respected in the legal community. All would make fine judges, if given the opportunity. …

This shouldn't just be about politics. It's also about perceptions, including perceptions about Bush, Cochran, Lott, the federal judiciary, as well as Mississippi.

Meanwhile, Cragg Hines began an article in the Houston Chronicle by saying, “If you liked Don Imus, you’re going to love Leslie Southwick.” Hines similarly criticized the lack of diversity on the Fifth Circuit and the now infamous opinion in which Judge Southwick joined a majority opinion which minimized an employee's use of the phrase "good ole n*****" to refer to an African American co-worker. Hines called on the Senate to stop confirming the president’s extremist judicial nominees:

Sometime in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate will stop considering judicial nominees of President Bush. That's the way things work.

The Democrats should begin to apply the brakes now to circuit court nominations. Southwick is as good a place as any to begin applying the brakes. …

Bush's nomination last year of Southwick to a federal district court judgeship died with the adjournment of the 109th Congress. A similar fate for 5th Circuit nomination would be appropriate.

We certainly expect the Senate to heed all these calls and to not confirm any more judges who are not fully qualified for lifetime appointments on the federal courts.

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