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Bush Installs Judge Pickering in Recess Appointment

January 20, 2004

President Bush used his recess appointing power to install Mississippi judge Charles Pickering to a federal appeals court after Democratic Senators blocked his nomination in October. Pickering’s critics say he backed laws barring interracial marriage and had ties to segregationist groups. [includes transcript]

President Bush used his recess appointing power Friday to install Mississippi judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In October Democratic Senators blocked the nomination of Pickering to the federal appeals court. His nomination has been widely criticized by civil rights groups. From the bench, Pickering once advocated for the reduction of a sentence for a man who was convicted of burning a cross near the home of an interracial couple.

The recess appointment means that Pickering will serve until January 2005, when the next Congress is sworn in. Until then, Pickering’s appointment will not have to be confirmed.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we move now to another event that took place last week. It was the day after Martin Luther King’s actual birthday. He would have been 75. And in October, democratic Senators blocked the nomination of William Pickering. On Friday, President Bush announced that he would appoint him. The recess appointment means Pickering will serve until January 2005 when the next Congress is sworn in. Until then Pickering’s appointment will not have to be confirmed. Nan Aaron is President of the Alliance for Justice. Can you tell us about William Pickering’s record and why so many have opposed this appointment?

NAN AARON: Sure. Good morning. Pickering, a 66-year-old federal judge —

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Charles Pickering.

NAN AARON: —- was opposed by hundreds of organizations around the country for activities that he carried out as a young lawmaker of supporting segregation, and for his actions and legislation promoting anti-abortion and anti-voting rights. He is someone who came to the Senate Judiciary Committee a few years ago with a very long record of hostility to civil and women’s rights. He disapproved of the Voting Rights Act. He, I think, however, received most of the criticism for intervening in litigation in a cross burning case on behalf of a convicted cross burner. Here you had a case involving a jury that convicted a man who had burned a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple with a small child, and Pickering went out of his way to use highly unethical means to try to force the prosecutors to drop the charges. That action ignited a firestorm of criticism in the committee and a few years ago, the committee defeated him, voted him down. After that, George Bush renominated Charles Pickering, and he was the subject of many fillibusters, and had Bush not elevated him by a recent appointment, he would still be on the district court at this point. It’s really— it’s such a slap in the face to the democrats, and it’s a slap in the face to Americans. It is an action that is good for Bush’s politics, but bad for the American people.

AMY GOODMAN: Nan Aaron, I want to thank you for being with us, of the Alliance for Justice.

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