October 30, 2003


A Judge Who Did Justice: 'You Have Committed a Despicable Act,' Said Sentencing Judge Pickering (Nat Hentoff, October 24th, 2003, Village Voice)

When George W. Bush renominated Mississippi Federal District Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Democratic attack machine on the Senate Judiciary Committee, People for the American Way, and other liberal watchdogs of the judiciary went after Pickering again--just as the Republican artillery pursued some of Bill Clinton's nominees.

As before, the most insistent charge against Pickering was that, presiding over a cross-burning case in Mississippi as a district judge, he had gone way out of his way to get a lighter sentence than the federal prosecutors demanded for one of the three white defendants. At the October 2 Judiciary Committee hearing on Pickering, Senator Ted Kennedy declared the judge's behavior in that case shameful.

What follow here are the facts of the case as reported by a New York Times specialist in legal issues, Neil Lewis (May 28), and Bryan York in National Review Online (January 9 and 13) and Editor & Publisher (March 3). I am indebted to Lewis and York, and did my own reporting as well. Lewis's factual reporting on this case has been ignored by Times editorial writers as they repeatedly attack Pickering's action.

Except that it's not a question of whether the judge is just but of what Democrats have to do to keep their special interests satisfied.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2003 7:14 PM

While this is not a 'cutting edge' issue for the middle, it is a battle that the President must fight and win, given the political reality of his party's control. If the Democrats won't allow up and down votes, then Bush should tell Tom Daschle that he will start making one recess appointment a week (over Thanksgiving and Christmas), and also that he will recess appoint to the Supreme Court, if necessary. The Republicans should also get Zell Miller's views on the subject into a few campaign ads, along with the wilder statements of Schumer, Kennedy, Boxer, and others - with the tagline "Do you want them setting the legal agenda for the USA"?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 30, 2003 7:25 PM

It isn't so much that they need to keep their special interests satisfied as that they need to keep them scared.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 30, 2003 7:45 PM

To Jim's point, the real question is why can't Reps convince Red-State voters that sending even less strident Dems like Lincoln, Pryor, Landrieu, Edwards, Hollings, etc. IS the same as letting the seniors -- Leahy, Boxer, Schumer, Kennedy, etc set national policy. A vote for Blanche Licoln next fall is a vote for Kennedy fillibusters.

Posted by: MG at October 30, 2003 8:45 PM

We're going to need those judges. It seems O'Connor said more decisions will be based on International Law.

Was in the Atlanta J&C.

Posted by: Sandy P. at October 30, 2003 8:56 PM