Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Robert Bork and Charles Pickering

are both judges who liberals decreed are anticivil rights. The truth is a bit different, according to Thomas Sowell.

Depicting judicial nominees as being against civil rights -- and therefore implicitly racist -- is a political tactic that has been used cynically and successfully, even against judges with a history of being in favor of civil rights and who have even had the endorsements of civil rights leaders like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

The most famous example was the use of the anti-civil rights charge against Judge Robert Bork during his confirmation hearings as a nominee for the Supreme Court in 1987. It is a matter of public record that, before he became a judge, Robert Bork had filed briefs on the side of the NAACP in a number of civil rights cases.

Even though Judge Bork was endorsed by the most famous civil rights attorney in history -- Thurgood Marshall -- that meant absolutely nothing politically. [emphasis mine] His opponents couldn't care less about his civil rights record, except as something to twist in order to deny him a place on the Supreme Court.

The same game was played, years later, when Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering was nominated to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and rejected by the Democrats who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2002.

Back in the days of the civil rights struggle in Mississippi in the 1960s, Charles Pickering not only risked his political career by speaking out for civil rights, he risked his life. When Judge Pickering's nomination came under political attack in Washington, decades later, local black leaders in Mississippi came to his defense. One said: "I can't believe the man they're describing in Washington is the same one I've known for years." [emphasis mine]

Pickering's actual civil rights record, which had been praised by Mississippi civil rights leader Charles Evers, had nothing to do with the opposition to him. Liberals were afraid that someone with Judge Pickering's judicial philosophy might not rule in favor of abortion -- their real litmus test -- and if depicting him as someone opposed to civil rights would stop him, so be it.

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