October 24th, 2007
12:00 PM ET
7 years ago

Senate OKs controversial judicial nominee; Lott gets emotional

Watch Sen. Lott get emotional in a press conference after Southwick was confirmed.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Senate Wednesday confirmed President Bush's controversial nominee Judge Leslie Southwick to the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals by a vote of 59-38.

Some Democrats, including the Congressional Black Caucus, had opposed Southwick's nomination, raising questions over the racial sensitivity of some of his rulings.

Speaking after the Senate vote, an emotional Sen. Trent Lott praised Southwick, a fellow Mississippian.

"This is emotional for me because this is a good man, he'll make a great judge," the Republican senator said. "On behalf of my state - which I feel has been maligned, in this and other instances - we appreciate it."

Lott later told CNN's Ted Barrett and Dana Bash why he got emotional over this particular judicial nomination.

"I just get emotional when I start talking about what it means to our state," he said. "Some of the statements out there really were just bashing our state. That really hurts. Hurts my feelings, hurts my state."

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and GOP contender Sen. John McCain all canceled campaign appearances to be present for Wednesday's vote.

McCain had pushed for the nomination to be brought to the full floor and approved. Political and legal analysts said McCain could be seeking to score points with Southern conservative voters by leaving New Hampshire, a crucial early primary state, to voice his support for the judge.

Clinton and Obama voted "no," along with fellow candidate Sen. Joe Biden. Another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, did not vote.

The seat on the 5th Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, has been vacant for nearly three years. Southwick, 57, is a former state judge and the third person tapped to fill it. He will be based in Mississippi.

Southwick became the latest target of efforts by both parties and a range of advocacy groups to highlight the impact federal judges - especially those who sit on the Supreme Court - can have on a range of hot-button social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and free speech.

The Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved Southwick's nomination in August, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, providing the deciding vote.

Race has played a role in the president's controversial efforts to fill this particular seat. Each of the three nominees, including Southwick, are white, and each has been accused of racist views or insensitivity to civil rights.

No African-American has ever been nominated from Mississippi, despite it having a 37 percent black population, one of the highest percentages in the United States.

Currently five women, three Hispanics, one African-American and five white males make up the 14 active judges on the New Orleans-based court.

- CNN's Bill Mears and Steve Brusk


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soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Remind me again why a "black caucus" is allowed to exist in a country that frowns on any divides based on race? Also – as a Republican – and watching Lott get emotional – I would like to offer him to the Democrats – he's alittle too Alan Alda for us now...

    October 24, 2007 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  2. Moderate with morals, Northwest Arkansas

    Why does someone who doesn't like Clinton automatically get put in the Republican camp. I would like to clarify my position and say that I am a proud Independent. By the way right now my vote is with the Obama group. I don't agree with all his views, but can handle him over Clinton any day.

    Today I praise congress for appointing a Judge who will uphold the law and not make up it's own.

    As for sonny's stance on salvation. That only comes through Jesus Christ, not how much good you do in this world. See John 14 for Jesus' words on that.

    October 24, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. Terry, El Paso, TX

    "America needs to pad it's benches again with conservative judges, before a devil like Clinton comes into power and sends this nation into moral hell." moderate with morals, Northwest Arkansas

    Can anyone tell if Moderate is putting us on or did he mean it?

    "Mod. from Ark: According to the WORD of Jesus salvation comes from how each of us treat the hungry, thirsty,naked & the prisoner, Mathew 25,31. In my opinion, the Clinton's, have a better chance of obtaining salvation than any Republican..." – sonny c. v.p.,la.

    All of you who are fond of quoting holy books need to realize that only a small portion of humanity agrees with your interpretation. Another Christian would interpret those verses very differently. Christians say the same words but their actions are as different and diverse as any other group. I know that while posting a verse or two, you can feel God's hand on your shoulder while He say, "Atta-boy. Smite the Heathen! You truly understand My Word." However, each Christian hears a different voice.

    October 24, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  4. Terry, El Paso, TX

    "I'll say a prayer for you today, my friend." – James, Phoenix AZ

    Ah, the ultimate insult: to offer to pray for some poster who is a contemptible piece of scum. It's sort of like when the cop hands you the speeding ticket and says, "Have a nice day."

    Now how can those of us who do NOT pray match that insult. Let me think...

    OK, James of Phoenix, I hope you spend several hours in a library.

    October 24, 2007 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. Steve, Lyons, CO

    The Democrats in Congress: spineless cowards.

    Joe Lieberman: change to the Repubs, you right-wing traitor jerk.

    I'm sick of hearing how "eminently qualified" a candidate or judicial nominee is. The only question that matters is, WILL HE UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION?

    Allowing some craphead redneck to get away with a racial slur...INTERVENING to get the creep his job back, is NOT what this country is about.

    October 24, 2007 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  6. Moderate with morals, Northwest Arkansas

    Can anyone tell if Moderate is putting us on or did he mean it? Posted By Terry, El Paso, TX

    Let me tell you my views on a few issues and let you be the judge.

    Iraq war – has gone on long enough, let the Iraqis govern themselves.
    Going Green – all for this. Trying to streamline my life to help the environment.
    Humanitarian causes – bring them on. As a Christian I feel called to help those in need.
    Abortion – morally wrong, enough said.
    Gay Marriage – sticky subject, but I got to go with no on marriage, but maybe yes on civil unions (still deciding)

    October 24, 2007 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  7. Chris, Dallas, Texas

    I'm not sure why there is such an outcry over judges that believe the law should be applied by the letter rather than bending it for certain social or "moral" situations. Liberal or Conservative, judges should not have the right to interpret the law according to some personal morality. Would we really have domestic spying or the Patriot Act if judges just followed the 4th Amendment to the Constitution?

    October 24, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Better to allow a Dixie conservative on a "lower-tier" Circuit like the Fifth than on one of the more important ones like the First, Second, Third, Seventh, Ninth or Federal. He's still bound to follow Supreme Court precedents, and that Court will likely review any serious departure from them.

    October 24, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  9. Daniel, Minneapolis MN

    "It is a basic tenet that an individual's exercise of freedom will not also provide an escape of the consequences flowing from the free exercise of such a choice. As with the present situation, the mother may view her decision to participate in a homosexual relationship as an exertion of her perceived right to do so. However, her choice is of significant consequence, as described before in the discussion of our State's policies, in that her rights to custody of her child may be significantly impacted"

    James AZ, this is bigotry. You can't deny that this is bigotry. If you attempt to deny it is bigotry, you are a bigot.

    October 24, 2007 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  10. Dabola, Chas. SC

    RE: "salvation comes from how each of us treat the hungry, thirsty,naked & the prisoner, Mathew 25,31. "
    Posted By sonny c.v.p., la
    —–
    and – "It's always amusing when liberals like sonny attempt to quote the Bible and then tell us all "what it means" – showing how little they actually KNOW.

    Sonny, it is very clear and very simple: Salvation comes simply accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior. All the "good works" done by men are worthless if the acceptance of Christ does not exist in the heart of a believer.

    In the passage you are citing, Christ calls on his followers to reach out and help those most at risk: hungry, thirsty, naked, etc."

    Sonny from la. and James from Phx, AZ you both get an "A" for effort, but we never hear much from the "Saved by Gracers" about James 2:26 "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also". In my Bible you need both the Savior and good works. Seems pretty clear to me.

    AS for the likes of "Billory Clinton" and others like her, never fear, for Christ will judge them that "honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." (Mathew 15:8) "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant." (Luke 19:22)

    October 24, 2007 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  11. Mark R. Fort Lauderdale FL

    It's very disappointing that Southwick was approved. And it shows exactly the reason why we need a democrat in the Whitehouse.

    October 25, 2007 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  12. Rick.Clinton MD

    Can't some of you Republicans come up with your own terms in these matter rather than repeat the talking points such activist judges, Judicial activism, etc. The problem with your party is know one has an original thought. You are like robots repat whatever the RNC tells you to.

    October 25, 2007 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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