- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 26, 2003


A Hispanic lawyer who was nominated to a federal appeals court by President Clinton but blocked by Republicans is urging Senate Democrats to confirm Mississippi Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the same court despite accusations of racial insensitivity.

Texas lawyer Jorge Rangel called for the confirmation of Judge Pickering, a U.S. District Court judge, for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in an April letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His appeal comes as Republicans prepare to step up pressure on Democrats to stop blocking President Bush's judicial nominations when the Senate resumes work Monday.

Mr. Rangel often is offered as an example by Democrats that Republicans used the same tactics when a Democratic president was making the nominations.

Judge Pickering's nomination to the New Orleans court was blocked last year by Democrats after fierce opposition by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups criticizing his civil rights record. But Mr. Rangel, in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, said Judge Pickering is "free from bias."

"The Charles W. Pickering that I have read about in press reports during the pendency of his current nomination does not comport with the Charles W. Pickering that I have come to know in the last 13 years," said Mr. Rangel, who sat on the American Bar Association review panel for Judge Pickering's nomination to the District Court in 1990.

Mr. Bush renominated Judge Pickering for the appeals court this year after Republicans took over the Senate, but several Democrats have threatened a filibuster. Republicans have promised to give Judge Pickering another hearing, but have not set a date.

"Competent, compassionate, sensitive and free from bias are terms that aptly describe him," said Mr. Rangel, a lawyer specializing in personal injury, libel and general media litigation.

But some Democrats are not convinced.

"To Senator Leahy and to many other senators, the record of Judge Pickering's poor performance as a federal judge, as well as his actions that violate judicial ethics, are still the most compelling arguments against promoting Judge Pickering to one of the highest courts in the land," said David Carle, spokesman for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to block Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada of Washington, D.C., who wants a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Republicans have failed four times to break the Democratic filibuster on Mr. Estrada in the almost three months his nomination has been on the Senate floor.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said now that the war in Iraq is over, pressure must be increased on Democrats to get confirmation for Mr. Estrada and also Texas state Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen.

"We've got to find a way to hold them accountable," said Mr. Cornyn, who served on the Texas Supreme Court with Judge Owen.

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