NCJW National President Urges Senator Hatch to Oppose Confirmation of Judge Charles Pickering

September 24, 2003, New York, NY - Marsha Atkind, National President of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) issued the following letter to Senator Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

September 24, 2003

The Honorable Orrin Hatch
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
104 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Hatch:

I am writing on behalf of the 90,000 members and supporters of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) to express our deepest concern regarding the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Pickering’s record of hostility toward civil and reproductive rights calls into question his suitability for a seat on the federal bench. We urge you to oppose his confirmation.

NCJW strongly believes that judges who serve on the federal bench must be firm defenders of constitutional rights and liberties, including women’s reproductive rights. Judge Charles Pickering’s record indicates that he is not. As a Mississippi state legislator in 1978, Judge Pickering voted to call a constitutional convention to outlaw abortion. He chaired the subcommittee of the 1976 Republican National Convention's Platform Committee which called for a constitutional amendment overturning Roe. He voted against state funding for family planning programs. Nothing in his record since then leads us to believe that his views have changed.

NCJW opposed Judge Pickering’s nomination during the last Congress – and the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed, voting to reject his nomination. Members of NCJW were deeply disappointed by President Bush’s decision to renominate Pickering in January 2003 in spite of the committee’s action and Pickering’s record of disregard for the civil rights of minorities and women, including the right to privacy.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for which Judge Pickering is nominated covers Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas – states with strong anti-choice state legislatures. It is likely that the 5th Circuit will have to rule on laws passed by those legislatures intended to restrict or overturn Roe. The 5th Circuit may well be the last word on most of those cases, since the Supreme Court considers only a small percentage of the cases it receives annually. These are also states with large minority populations. Judge Pickering’s views on key civil rights issues, including affirmative action and the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ are troubling. Confirming him to the 5th Circuit would threaten long-fought gains in civil rights.

I strongly urge you to vote against his confirmation.


Marsha Atkind National President

cc: Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

NCJW is a volunteer organization, inspired by Jewish values, that works to improve the quality of life for women, children and families and to ensure individual rights and freedoms through research, education and community service programs initiated by its network of 90,000 volunteers, supporters and members nationwide. It has launched BenchMark: NCJW's Campaign to Save Roe, a national effort to educate and mobilize NCJW members, the Jewish community, and friends and allies everywhere to promote a federal bench with judges that support fundamental freedoms, including a woman's right to choose.