Judge Pickering

This Thursday, barring an unexpected development -- or a miracle, the Senate Judiciary Committee will reject the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.   What a travesty! A good and decent man is being maligned. That's bad enough, but even worse, the Constitution is being assaulted. The words "advice and consent" are being used in a way the Founders never intended.   Pickering's nomination is opposed by a coalition of liberal interest groups who oppose him for much of the same reasons they've opposed other conservative nominees: his views on civil rights, women's rights, and, in this case, his alleged disregard for the separation of church and state.   As evidence of the latter, they cite Pickering's words when sentencing a young man for murder: " . . . it is not too late for you to form a new beginning . . . You can become involved in Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship or some other such ministry, and be a benefit to your fellow inmates and to others and to their families."   It says something about how distorted the confirmation process has become that an act of compassion can disqualify a man from sitting on the Federal Court of Appeals.   Then again neither Pickering nor the Court of Appeals is really the issue for these interest groups and their allies in the Senate. Their treatment of Pickering is meant as a warning to President Bush about nominating a pro-life conservative to the Supreme Court. They are saying any nominee that they even suspect disagrees with them on abortion can expect the same treatment Pickering received. His or her record will be distorted in the Senate and in the press.   None of this is what the Founders intended when they said the Senate had the role of "advice and consent" in judiciary appointments. As Douglas Kmiec, dean of Catholic University School of Law, recently wrote, the Founders never intended that the Senate "micromanage" the confirmation process. He quoted the Federalist Papers, saying that the role of the Senate, while powerful, would be, in general, "silent."   According to Alexander Hamilton, the Senate was to be a check "upon the spirit of favoritism in the President." "Advice and consent" was intended to "prevent the appointment of unfit characters from . . . family connection, personal attachment, or from a view to popularity."   In other words, it's designed to guard against cronyism, nepotism, and manifestly unfit judges. None of these criteria apply to Charles Pickering who has received the highest ABA ratings. The fact that his nomination faces likely defeat shows how far we've strayed from the Founders' intentions.   Christians must not remain quietly on the sidelines. According to Mariam Bell, who is our Director of Public Policy, "if the Senators don't hear from their constituents, they will be emboldened to continue this type of tactic from here on out." If we don't voice our opposition, the only judges who will ever be confirmed are those acceptable to liberal interest groups and their allies in the Senate.   That's why it's vital that we flood the Senators' offices with calls, and e-mails, and faxes, as well as visits if you can. Before the Senate Judiciary committee votes this Thursday, they need to know that while they may think they can win this battle -- and I still am praying for a miracle -- the war for the federal judiciary is far from over.         Take Action:   To contact Senator Leahy: E-mail; Phone: (202) 224- 4242; Fax: (202) 224-3479; Address: 433 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510.   To contact your U.S. senators, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to connect to your state's senators' offices. Or visit the U.S. Senate directory.   For further reading:   Douglas W. Kmiec, "Screening Judges: Not the Senate's Role to Micromanage," National Review, 5 September 2001.   The Federalist Papers can be read here.   Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, The Christian in Today's Culture (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999).   BreakPoint Commentary No. 020212, "It's Not Too Late: The Case of Judge Pickering."  


Chuck Colson


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