This editorial appeared in Wednesday's Los Angeles Times:
In 1958, a judge threw out Mississippi's ban on interracial cohabitation, not because he considered it morally repugnant and unconstitutional but because lawmakers had inadvertently mangled the statute's language so badly as to render it nonsensical and unenforceable. The next year, a law student by the name of Charles Pickering penned a law review article suggesting language that would fix the problem. The remedy he urged would let Mississippi authorities bring felony prosecutions against men and women because of whom they married or otherwise lived with.
Charles Pickering Sr. now sits on the U.S. District Court in Mississippi, named to it in 1990 by then-President George Bush. Last year, President George W. Bush nominated Pickering for a seat on the powerful 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Today, Pickering was scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend his record on the bench and, before that, as a state legislator and the Republican Party state chairman.
We have condemned the years-long partisan stalemate over judicial nominations. We are just as concerned, however, that the men and women who become life-tenured federal judges be committed to the principles of fairness and equality that guide this nation. At his hearing, Pickering will no doubt put the best light on his actions. But the Judiciary Committee should send his nomination back to Bush.
Pickering's decisions in voting rights, discrimination and prisoner rights cases display indifference if not hostility to those asking the courts to remedy injustice. In several voting rights cases, he sharply criticized the principle of one person, one vote as upsetting state and local government operations and as costing a "tremendous amount of taxpayer money." His tendency to interject his personal opinions, biblical quotations and other extralegal materials into judicial opinions demonstrates that he lacks the open mind and equanimity that Americans require of their judges.
Because Pickering served in the Mississippi Senate and as a party chairman, his ideological views are well known. Pickering has, as well, been evasive if not misleading about his involvement over a number of years with the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a state-funded agency established to oppose integration efforts.
Nevertheless, Pickering has a powerful friend in Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Lott is playing hardball. Lott's colleagues can expect repercussions for "no" votes.
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