Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Filibuster Southwick?

There is talk of a filibuster of Leslie Southwick's nomination to the Pickering seat on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ana Radelat writes in today's Jackson Clarion Ledger: Southwick's nomination to the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been bitterly opposed by many Democrats who've criticized the judge's record on civil rights based on decisions he made while serving on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. But opposition to Southwick has not reached the level it had for previous nominees for that seat whom the Democrats were able to block from Senate confirmation - Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering and Jackson lawyer Mike Wallace. Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said she hoped a Democratic senator would filibuster the nomination, or hold it up by extended debate...."We are not ruling out any technique ... including the filibuster," Aron said. (Read the full story here)

Judge Pickering discusses in depth the filibuster (its history, tradition, rules, motivations) in both his books. Chapter 10 of Supreme Chaos is titled "Filibuster: The Historic and Constitutional Case for Confirmation by Majority Vote" and Chapter 18 of A Price Too High is titled "End the Filibuster: The Constitutional Option."

Pickering notes in A Price Too High that early warnings of a filibuster were ignored during his and other early Bush nominees' confirmation fights: "Republicans did not take the warning of a filibuster seriously. The Democrats didn’t filibuster Robert Bork, and they didn’t filibuster Clarence Thomas. In fact, neither party had ever employed the filibuster to deny confirmation to a nominee enjoying majority support. Blocking nominees in committee was bad enough, but blocking judicial nominees by filibuster would be unprecedented. The Democrats had just taken a licking at the ballot box in part due to their obstruction of judicial nominees. Election losses historically are effective teaching techniques utilized by voters. Those of us who doubted the Democrats would follow through on the threatened filibuster did not comprehend the control that the Far Left—out of the mainstream—special-interest groups held over the Democrats in the Senate." (page 120)

He later notes that the filibuster is purely a political tool because controversial and important nominations have always been dealt with previously: "It is not necessary to filibuster judges who are truly out of the mainstream. History shows us the Senate can discuss, vet, and even defeat contentious Supreme Court nominees without the need of a filibuster. In fact, the Senate has defeated twelve Supreme Court nominees by majority vote without filibuster. Certainly if we can resolve the Supreme Court nominations without filibusters, we can do the same for appellate nominees." (page 250)

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