- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

Democrats are targeting President Bush's judicial nominees from the South by painting them as racists, say Republicans who charge it is a pattern of character destruction.

As the Senate Judiciary Committee today considers the nomination of South Carolina District Judge Dennis W. Shedd to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, a fund-raising letter by committee member Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, surfaced promoting his role in defeating another white Southerner.

District Judge Charles W. Pickering of Mississippi, nominated to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, was defeated in committee earlier this year by Democrats with the help of liberal special-interest groups who portrayed the judge as a racist. Those same groups have targeted Judge Shedd, who for 10 years was a top aide to Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina Republican.

Mr. Durbin says he does not believe Judge Pickering is a racist, but prefaces his remarks in the fund-raising letter by describing him as such.

"Back in Illinois one of Pickering's critics in Chicago said to me: 'He can change the sheets but he can't change who he is,'" Mr. Durbin said in a reference to white sheets worn by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

However, Judge Pickering was supported by black Mississippi leaders who praised his civil rights record for standing up to the Klan.

The South Carolina Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says Judge Shedd is hostile to civil rights issues. It is leading the opposition against his confirmation to the 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia and Maryland.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, said Judge Shedd is an "extraordinarily accomplished judge with an excellent reputation for integrity" who should be cleared by the committee. But Mr. Sessions also said committee Democrats have been "roughing up a lot of good people."

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said liberal opposition to Judge Shedd is "the same baseless prejudiced attitudes toward him that we saw expressed toward Judge Pickering."

"If you're from the South, you're more inclined to be conservative, and a Christian, your faith matters whether you're a Christian, Jew or whatever. And that's apparently not perceived very well on either of those counts by the members of the Judiciary Committee on the Democratic side."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the committee and Vermont Democrat, called the charges "baloney."

"I think the majority of the judges we've put through so far this year have been Southerners," Mr. Leahy said.

In his fund-raising letter, Mr. Durbin dramatically described the committee scene before Judge Pickering was defeated on a 10-9 party-line vote, calling him a "white lawyer from the South" and "the most controversial judicial nominee submitted by President George W. Bush."

"But it was hard for me to focus on Charles Pickering of Mississippi," Mr. Durbin said. "My mind was filled with my own memories of the struggle for civil rights in America a struggle which I recall vividly from my college days. A struggle with memories this debate revived."

The four-page letter dated April 8 focuses almost entirely on Judge Pickering and civil rights and asks for campaign donations of $25 to $100.

Mr. Leahy defended the fund-raising letter, saying it was patterned after Republican tactics.

"He probably copied some of the letters that Republicans sent out in the last six years about all the judges they defeated," Mr. Leahy said.

Mr. Lott said the letter was "an unfortunate thing to do."

"But that's kind of what I'd expect from Senator Durbin," Mr. Lott said. "That's his pattern."

Judge Pickering's stance on the issue of "one man, one vote," made it "clear that he was neither moderate nor deserving of a lifetime appointment to the second highest court in our land," Mr. Durbin said.

A Bush administration official said Senate Democrats are engaged in a pattern of blocking the confirmation "of anyone with a drawl."

"They're starting this attack line on the South," the official said. "What they're going to wind up doing is defeating guys like [Sen. Max] Cleland with this effort."

Mr. Cleland, Georgia Democrat, is running for re-election this year against Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who is making a campaign issue out of Democrats' opposition to Southern judicial candidates.

After the defeat of Judge Pickering, fellow Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller said the treatment of the nominee as a Southern racist could cost the party in the South governorships and seats in Congress.

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