Judge Southwick Should Be Confirmed

Fred Thompson
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Posted: Aug 01, 2007 10:34 PM
Judge Southwick Should Be Confirmed

Originally appeared on ImWithFred.com

You’ve probably never heard of Rebecca Nurse, but bear with me for a moment. Nurse arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1640. There, despite being known as a woman of virtue and piety, she was accused of being a witch. On July 19, 1692, she was hanged.

Now almost 315 years to the day later, one of Nurse’s descendants is suffering through a witch hunt of a more modern variety. I’m talking about Judge Leslie Southwick, whose nomination to the long-standing vacancy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is being thwarted by Senate Democrats.

Sadly, Judge Southwick is just the latest in a long line of nominees for that bench to be delayed. President Bush’s previous two nominees, Charles Pickering in 2004 and then Michael Wallace in 2006, were likewise filibustered by Senate Democrats. Some might think that seat cursed. In reality, it’s just Democrats playing their usual partisan games with a Republican President’s judicial nominations.

We saw this one coming, of course. Earlier this summer, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced to liberal lawyers at the American Constitution Society: “I will recommend to my colleagues that we should not confirm a Supreme Court nominee except in extraordinary circumstances.” Evidently, Sen. Schumer’s promise is now his party’s standard operating procedure for any and all Bush Administration judicial nominations.

From the beginning of his Administration, President Bush was committed to appointing judges who understand the appropriate limits on their role and seek to interpret the law as written by Congress — rather than revising it to achieve their own preferred goals. Too many Democrats, though, prefer judges who, under the guise of interpreting the Constitution, will impose their policy preferences on the citizenry.

These are two very different notions of the appropriate role of judges. On this issue, I stand with the President, along with the kinds of judges he appoints, like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito (both of whom, I’d note are now facing political scrutiny from the Senate Judiciary Committee). The battle for the courts is one that liberals take seriously, and they use every legislative and procedural arrow in their quiver to win — even if it means tearing down good people to achieve their aims.

Judge Southwick’s a good example. His opponents do not question Judge Southwick’s qualifications to sit on the federal appeals court. Indeed, they cannot. Judge Southwick served on the Mississippi Court of Appeals from that court’s very inception in January 1995 through December 2006. Prior to serving as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division, from 1989 to 1993, he was in a general civil private practice for 12 years. He’s taught law as an adjunct professor at Mississippi College School of Law since 1998. He’s also served his country in Iraq, fulfilling his National Guard duty as Deputy Staff Judge Advocate from August 2004 to July 2005, and then as Staff Judge Advocate until January 2006. Even the American Bar Association, which often treats conservative judicial nominees unfairly, unanimously gave Judge Southwick the institution’s highest possible rating.

So rather than assail Judge Southwick’s legal competency, Senate Democrats, led primarily by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), are instead attacking Judge Southwick’s character. Ignoring his volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity since 1993 and the time he spent as a board member and president of a local Jackson, Miss., charitable organization, Senate Democrats claim that Judge Southwick is racist and anti-homosexual.

The evidence against Judge Southwick? Two decisions he joined while sitting on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Two, and only two, out of the more than 7,000 cases Judge Southwick heard, and in both of these instances, Judge Southwick had no hand in the writing of the rulings.

Judge Southwick’s reward for being a qualified judge, and by all accounts a good citizen, is a Senatorial inquisition meant to besmirch his professional and personal reputation. No wonder it gets harder and harder to attract good people to serve in important public positions.

Judge Southwick should be confirmed.