5th CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
(Retired December 9, 2004)
On December 9, 2004, Judge Charles Pickering retired from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and announced he would no longer seek Senate confirmation for his nomination. He had been installed in a recess appointment to this court by President Bush on January 16, 2004. A recess appointment does not require Senate confirmation and was valid until the next Congress takes office (January 2005). Senate Democrats had been filibustering Judge Pickering’s confirmation because of his record of hostility towards women’s reproductive rights and towards civil rights in general.
On October 30, 2003 the Senate voted 43-54 (3 senators did not vote) against cloture which would have ended the filibuster against the confirmation of Judge Pickering. A vote of 60 is required to end debate and move to a vote. This was the first cloture vote on this nominee.
Previously, on January 7, 2003, Pickering was renominated despite the rejection of his nomination on March 14, 2002 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. On October 2, 2003 the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-9 along party lines to approve the nomination despite the fact that the current committee failed to hold a hearing on it first. Judge Pickering has a record of hostility towards women's reproductive rights and towards civil rights in general. NCJW opposed Pickering’s confirmation.
- Judge Pickering was born in 1937 in Jones County, Mississippi, and received a BA in 1959 and a law degree in 1961, both from the University of Mississippi.
- He was in private practice from 1961-90, while also serving as the prosecutor for the city of Laurel and Jones County, a judge in the city of Laurel Municipal Court in 1969, and a Mississippi state senator from 1972-80.
- In 1990, Judge Pickering was appointed to the US District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi by President George H.W. Bush.
- Judge Pickering has demonstrated hostility to women's reproductive rights.
- As a state legislator, Judge Pickering voted to call a constitutional convention to outlaw abortion.
- Also during this time, Judge Pickering voted against state funding for family planning programs.
- As chair of a 1976 Republican National Convention party platform subcommittee, he led the effort to add the first anti-abortion plank to the party's platform, denouncing Roe v. Wade and calling for it to be overturned.
- Judge Pickering also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment.
- Judge Pickering also has a troubling record regarding the civil rights of minorities.
- In the 1970s, State Sen. Pickering twice voted for a reapportionment plan that would dilute the voting strength of blacks.
- In 1993, federal district court Judge Pickering published an opinion questioning the "one person-one vote" doctrine as "obtrusive." He has criticized court-ordered redistricting designed to remedy racial discrimination, citing the expense to taxpayers and the disruption of customs such as voting along county or municipal lines.
- In 1994, violating judicial ethics, Judge Pickering called the Justice Department to urge prosecutors to seek a light sentence for someone convicted in his court of burning a cross on the lawn of a mixed-race couple.
- As a federal district court judge, Judge Pickering used identical language in two different job discrimination cases, stating that each of the plaintiffs' claims was "filed simply because an adverse employment decision was made in regard to a protected minority." In other words, Pickering accused the plaintiffs of taking advantage of their minority racial status.
- Judge Pickering has said that cases reaching his court without being resolved by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must be lacking in merit. In fact, due to budget constraints, EEOC has a backlog of 35,000 cases and can litigate only 3.5 percent of all the cases in which it has found reason to believe discrimination has occurred.
Alliance for Justice
American Association of University Women(AAUW)
Americans for Democratic Action, Inc.
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
Center for Women Policy Studies
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Committee for Judicial Independence
Human Rights Campaign
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)
NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, Inc.
National Abortion Federation
NARAL Pro Choice America
National Association of Social Workers
National Council of Women's Organizations
National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Women's Law Center
Planned Parenthood Federation of America
People for the American Way
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Voters for Choice Action Fund
Women's Campaign Fund
January 16, 2004
NCJW Appalled by Recess Appointment of Charles Pickering
October 30, 2003
NCJW Applauds Senate Rejection of Pickering
September 24, 2003
NCJW Opposes Nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
January 7, 2003
NCJW Expresses Grave Disappointment Over Renomination of Pickering and Owen