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OCTOBER 29, 2003
11:46 AM
CONTACT:  People for the American Way
Nathan Richter 202-467-4999
Charles Pickering: Just the Facts
WASHINGTON - October 29 -Throughout his career, Judge Charles Pickering has demonstrated a record of hostility to key principles that protect civil and constitutional rights. His nomination continues to draw opposition from his home state of Mississippi and organizations around the nation.

As a federal judge, Charles Pickering:

* criticized the "one-person, one-vote" principle recognized by the Supreme Court.

* suggested that large deviations from equality in drawing legislative district lines, which the Supreme Court has held presumptively unconstitutional, were "relatively minor" and "de minimis."

* criticized or sought to limit important remedies provided by the Voting Rights Act.

* repeatedly inserted into his rulings, in cases involving claims of employment discrimination, severe criticisms of civil rights plaintiffs and the use of civil rights laws to address alleged discrimination.

* demonstrated a propensity to make it harder for some people to obtain access to justice, especially less powerful litigants, such as people raising civil rights or liberties claims.

* has been reversed 15 times by the 5th Circuit for ignoring or violating "well-settled principles of law" - 11 of those 15 in cases involving constitutional, civil rights, criminal procedure, or labor issues; in contrast, another Bush nominee who was confirmed to the 5th Circuit, Edith Brown Clement, was reversed only once during a slightly shorter tenure as a district court judge.

* engaged in unethical conduct in an effort to reduce the sentence for a defendant convicted for burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial family and by soliciting letters of support for his confirmation from attorneys who practiced before him.

As a state senator, Charles Pickering:

* co-sponsored a Mississippi Senate resolution calling on Congress to repeal Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (providing federal oversight over jurisdictions with a history of discrimination in voting) or to apply it to all states regardless of their discrimination history, widely seen as an effort to gut the Act.

* supported "open primary" legislation that was blocked by the Justice Department over concerns about discrimination against black voters.

* supported a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to propose an amendment to ban abortion.

Hundreds of organizations, individuals and elected officials have announced their opposition to Pickering's nomination:

* African-American organizations and leaders in Mississippi, including every local chapter and the state chapter of the NAACP, the Legislative Black Caucus, the Magnolia Bar Association, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Mississippi Worker's Center for Human Rights, and more.

* National legal and civil rights organizations, including the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Alliance for Justice, the Human Rights Campaign, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the National Bar Association and more.

* Local and national women's rights groups, including the American Association of University Women, the National Women's Law Center, the National Partnership for Women and Families, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Womens Political Caucus, and more.

* Labor organizations, including the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of School Administrators, AFSME, UNITE!, the United Steelworkers of America, and more.

People For the American Way's website includes a complete list of groups and individuals opposing the Pickering nomination, a guide to our extensive reports and memos on the nomination, and information about the ethical concerns surrounding Pickering's nomination. See


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