Coalition to fight judicial nominees

A coalition of civil rights and women’s equality organizations has promised a fight to block Senate confirmation of Judge Charles W. Pickering, Sr. and Judge Priscilla R. Owen to seats on the federal appeals court. They welcomed Sen. Charles Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) vow to filibuster the Pickering re-nomination if it reaches the Senate floor.

George W. Bush re-nominated Pickering and Owen, who had been rejected in the last session of the Senate. It was a deliberate slap at the broad movement that forced Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to give up his leadership post because of pro-segregationist comments he made at a birthday party for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond.

Wade Henderson, executive director of the labor-backed Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), blasted Bush for his hypocrisy. “How can President Bush one day criticize Sen. Lott but the next day send to the U.S. Senate judicial nominees who have demonstrated even less sensitivity than the former Majority Leader? With these re-nominations, it is clear that President Bush’s compassion for civil rights takes second place to his compassion for the so-called ‘state’s rights’ movement.”

Henderson said LCCR and its allies will fight the Pickering and Owen nominations. “In the days, weeks and months ahead, we plan to mobilize our communities to send our own message to Bush and the Senate: that hostility toward the protection of civil and human rights is at odds with our country’s fundamental principles …”

Bush re-nominated Pickering even though in 1994 he had intervened to plead for a lower sentence against a Klansman convicted of burning a cross in the front yard of an interracial couple in Mississippi. Pickering, a close crony of Lott, advised Mississippi on how to strengthen the state’s law against interracial marriages and supported Constitutional Amendments to ban school desegregation and abortions. He is a foe of the Voting Rights Act.

Judge Owen is likewise an enemy of equal employment rights and abortion rights protected by Roe v. Wade. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said, “The women’s rights and civil rights communities will fight this political déjà vu with the same determinations we did last year. It has been only a short time since the egregious statements of Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Cass Ballenger and already the White House has abandoned its brief embrace of civil rights by re-nominating Charles Pickering.”

NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond said Bush is sending a “clear signal” that the “party of Lott has no intention of becoming the party of Lincoln and that they will continue to play the race card and to practice the politics of racial division. They have no shame.” He called on the Senate to reject Pickering and Owen.

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