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Friday, July 20, 2007

Southwick Saga Continues

The Senate Republicans continue to blame the Senate Democrats for not moving forward on Judge Southwick and other judicial nominees, despite the fact that the Senate has already confirmed three Circuit Court nominees and numerous district court nominees this Congress. Moreover, the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings for three additional nominees yesterday.

The proponents of Judge Southwick’s confirmation have come out in full force since Senator Specter (R-PA) requested several weeks ago that the Judiciary Committee delay voting on his nomination. Senator Cochran (R-MS) has been actively lobbying for Southwick’s confirmation. And Senator Cochran’s pleas have apparently been taken up by Fox News. Conservatives accuse those who do not think Southwick is fit for a lifetime appointment of racism and of focusing only a couple of Southwick’s numerous cases. They ignore the focus of Alliance for Justice’s and other’s concerns: that Southwick never found in favor of the powerless and - in split decisions - voted 89% of the time in favor of corporations and against consumers and employees.

In response, opponents of Southwick’s nomination have reiterated their concerns about his suitability for a lifetime appointment on the Fifth Circuit. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights stated: “Leslie Southwick's confirmation would be a slap in the face to African Americans and people of good will. His views on workplace discrimination are, at best, questionable, and at worst, indifferent to the dignity of minority workers.” And in this letter to the editor Earth Justice’s Glenn Sugameli stated pointed out the fallacy of the arguments made by Southwick’s champions.

Yesterday, Judiciary Committee Chair, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) released this statement. He reiterated that the Judiciary Committee has moved to confirm qualified federal judges, but accused the White House of failing to consult with Senators and to nominate consensus candidates who can easily win Senate confirmation:

Of the 15 circuit court vacancies, almost half are without a nominee. If the President had worked with the Senators from Michigan, Rhode Island, Maryland, California and New Jersey, we could be in position to make even more progress. …

If [Senate Republicans] were candid they would concede that they are having difficulties themselves trying to work with this White House on filling judicial vacancies with acceptable nominees.

I have urged the White House to work with Senators of both parties and to fill the 5th Circuit vacancy from Mississippi with the nomination of the Honorable Henry Wingate. Judge Wingate would be the first African American from Mississippi to serve on the 5th Circuit. He is the Chief Judge of the District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. I cannot imagine why an experienced judge appointed by Ronald Reagan would be unacceptable to this White House.

In the meantime, Judge Southwick remains stalled at the request of Senators Specter, Cochran and Lott and the Republicans continue to slam Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats for failing to move on judges, threaten to shut down the Senate, and meanwhile refuse to move forward on important legislation – even non-binding legislation.

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