Thursday, November 14, 2013

Southwick book an exhibit for confirmation reform

From "Southwick's judicial journey" by Brian Perry
Attorneys interested in the machinations of how federal judges are selected, nominated, confirmed and appointed will find an insightful look behind the scenes in "The Nominee: A Political and Spiritual Journey," the new book by U.S. Fifth Circuit Judge Leslie H. Southwick published by University Press of Mississippi. But the memoir goes beyond legal intrigue and provides and entertaining and exhaustive study of the politics of judicial confirmation for all those interested in the past and future of the judiciary. (Legal or political history nerds will also find helpful his appendix reviewing the background of selection for all Fifth Circuit judges from 1869 to 2012.) Southwick provides an honest account of his struggle to reach the court of appeals bench: ambition checked by humility; calculated moves tempered by seeking God's will; partisan conflict in which he becomes a pawn for a battle not his own but holding his future career in the balance. In 2006, Southwick was nominated for a federal district judge position but that nomination expired without action by the Senate. In 2007, after the U.S. Senate had blocked the nominations of first Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. and later attorney Michael Wallace, Southwick was chosen and his real battle against liberal special interest groups began. Through meetings with Democratic Senators explaining his court opinions, efforts by Cochran and Senator Trent Lott in persuading their colleagues, and the White House rejecting "deals" as it had rejected with Pickering's nomination, ultimately Southwick was confirmed overcoming a filibuster by three votes and then confirmed with a 59 vote majority. The book is not only a political memoir, but a story of a man following his faith and acknowledging his own failures. It is also another testament to the broken judicial confirmation process. I find similar emotions and observations from Southwick and many others who have commented on the judicial selection process. An honorable man is frustrated when his character is assaulted. There is a desire for people to know the truth. A nominee and his family face anguish over months and years as the process drags on at "glacial" speed with their lives and careers in limbo. Those observations are not only from Republican nominees, but also from Democrats. The judicial confirmation process fails nominees and needs reform. Pickering suggested a number of reforms in his books and Southwick's book is an exhibit for the pressing need to provide a reliable and fair (to both parties) mechanism to confirm or reject nominees.