The National Council of Jewish Women slammed the U.S. Senate for confirming a controversial judge to a federal appellate court.
Democrats and liberal groups had opposed the appointment of Southwick to the 5th Circuit court in New Orleans, partly because of two decisions he joined as a state judge, one upholding the reinstatement of a worker who used racial epithets against colleagues, the other upholding the use of sexual orientation in deciding custody. In jury selections, he also has a pattern of overturning objections to white jurors and upholding objections to black jurors, according to NCJW.
“This nominee has a record of hostility to the civil rights concerns of African Americans and to the equality of gays and lesbians before the law,” NCJW said in a statement Wednesday, after Southwick was confirmed. “The Senate’s failure to defeat this nomination is an abdication of its role in the nomination process. Southwick’s views are not simply a matter of judicial philosophy. Rather, his past actions as a judge demonstrate an intolerance that ought not to be permitted on the bench at any level.”
The court, which covers appeals from courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, has a troubled civil rights history.
Southwick’s defenders said he had a high American Bar Association rating, is an Iraq war veteran, and was not known to have actually authored a racially charged decision, unlike two earlier Bush administration nominees who had not withstood Senate scrutiny.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a lifetime member of the NCJW’s San Francisco section, was nonetheless critical in rallying another eight Democrats to support Southwick. Feinstein argued that too many qualified candidates for the bench were being blocked.