October 24th, 2007
12:00 PM ET
11 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

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. James, Phoenix AZ

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


    Did the Judge FOLLOW the laws and apply the law evenly?

    CNN – your article should have read, "Some Democrats, including the Congressional Black Caucus, continued dividing our country down racial lines. Hillary, Obama, and Biden voted NO, giving more lip service yet quietly avoided any attention paid to what LITTLE has been done on their watch for the African American community."

    The Words of Martin Luther King:

    "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

    Sadly, the Democrat Party opposed Dr King's dream. Instead of looking past the color of skin to find the character of a person – the Democrat Party creates the illusion of overwhelming prejudice and racism, feigning a commitment to fight this strawman.

    Funny – these "issues" get great attention once every 4 years when an election is happening. Hmmm, wonder why?

    October 24, 2007 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. wufpakmom, northern Illinois

    There is one thing more frightening than seeing another another judge who is wholly owned by the narrow, suffocating religious zealots now running this country appointed to the federal bench. And that one thing is the complete indifference to the hijacking of our nation by the general public. Why is this the only response to this story posted? Where is the analysis, the debate, the dialogue? Or are we all too busy decrying Rudy's vote pandering choice of team and savaging Romney for his "accidental" equation of Barack Obama and Osama bin Ladin?

    I fear for the welfare of this Republic.

    October 24, 2007 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Andrew, Austin TX

    Because debating something like this would require looking up facts, and that's hard work. Emotional appeals and name-calling are much easier.

    October 24, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |


    October 24, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. RightyTighty

    Bush is knocking off those Clinton appointed activist judges one by one. What a great president. America need legislated laws for the people, not unelected judicial dictators..

    October 24, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  6. Michael, N. Fulton County, Georgia

    If the President and a majority of US Senators voted for this guy, so be it. Although it is near impossible to get rid of the 19 of the senators casting an aye vote, we have the opportunity to elect a new President next year who will care more about the Constitution than about one particular version of the Bible, be it the New Testament, the Old Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Koran or any number of other scriptures that are written based on someone's religious faith vs. the national interest of all.

    October 24, 2007 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  7. Jim Lynch, Falmouth MA

    Since when is free speech a "hot button social issue?" I always thought it was a constitutional right in the USA.

    October 24, 2007 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. LB, Franklin Lakes, NJ

    Once more the Dems cave. Maybe their TV ads should say: WANTED: BACKBONE.

    October 24, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. Tom, Bellevue, Washington

    Democrats had already rejected Bush's first nomination. How much more longer did people expect the democrats to continue blocking Bush's nominations? All the same. If this were reversed (a democratic president with a republican congress), Republicans would reject the presidents nomination lock-step. Not like the current democratic congress, which always seems to split. Even with a majority, democrats can't get their own ducks in a row. Something is wrong at the leadership level.

    October 24, 2007 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. Mike, Houston, TX

    Dianne Feinstein provided the deciding vote in the nomination last August. I don't see any conection between her and anything remotely religious.

    Why is it that everytime there is a nominee who favors judicial restraint (i.e.: wants to let the legislative branch legislate – as per the constitution), it is called extremism?

    October 24, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  11. moderate with morals, Northwest Arkansas

    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.

    October 24, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. pat huntington ny

    I would like to thank my senator, Sen. Clinton, for voting No against another right-wing activist judge who fails to realize his role in representative democracy – that is, to protect the minority from the tyrany of the majority. That is not judicial activism. Indeed, the only time we hear the republican neo cons complaint of activist judges, is when they don't get their way in a particular case.

    October 24, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  13. Markie Bee

    I agree with wufpakmom to a degree. But this isn't the first time Milt Romannoy (sorry, slip of the keyboard) has flubbed Obama's name. It's one thing to say Osama when you mean Obama. But he used his first name in his sentence about Bin Laden and Barack doesn't sound anything like Osama. He should have stopped himself as soon as he said "Barack Obama is rallying Islamic forces, blah, blah, blah." And like I said, it's not the first time Mort Rhomboid (sorry, I made another mistake) has screwed up like this. There's a pattern emerging.

    October 24, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. roger, conway sc

    another unelected judicial dictator appointed...they "judge" everyone by their own neo-conservative right wing beliefs and individuals are not allowed to think for themselves just like the republican party...narrow minded hypocrites...

    October 24, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  15. sonny c. v.p.,la.

    Righty: That's why the Founding Fathers created three branches of govt. The legislative branch was known,historically, for being imperfect & capable of passing bad laws on ocassion. Also, being from the South, I've seen racial problems up close & personal. Yes, the south was maligned in the 1960s as Trent Lott suggested. But tackling Civil Rights in the South was literally a war between the Feds. & the Southern States that's still ongoing. This "war" did not have to be, but, down South, many are slow to surrender.

    October 24, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  16. RIghtyTighty

    Once again Hillary and Obama's political divisiveness forces Biden and Dodd to hide while Bush gets his way. What great leaders the DNC has…

    October 24, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  17. sonny c. v.p.,la.

    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, including the self proclaimed Christian, George W. Bush.

    October 24, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  18. Scott from Freehold

    Yep, Trent gets all verklamp when a racist gets a judgeship.

    October 24, 2007 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  19. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    Why are only more enlightened (read: "liberal") judges considered "activist" judges by conservatives, but right wingers are saintly "strict interpreters"? All humans have ideologies that influence, in some way, their decisions. This is why moderates are the best for the country.

    And what the heck is Trent Lott still doing around? Like Larry Craig, can't we get rid of these clowns?

    Speaking of which, I like how a previous poster spouts off about morals and whatnot before "the devil" Clinton ruins things. I guess this person's memory doesn't extend more than a day or so. A typical Republican.

    October 24, 2007 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. James, Phoenix AZ

    "salvation comes from how each of us treat the hungry, thirsty,naked & the prisoner, Mathew 25,31. "

    Posted By sonny c.v.p., la


    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. He was NOT calling for a government program! The FACT is – conservative folks in America (of all faiths) give significantly more to charity/churches than any other group. This might come to you as a SHOCK – but "Republican" isn't a religion – it's a political party. Salvation is open to ALL people – including those with cloudy vision such as yourself.

    I'll say a prayer for you today, my friend.

    October 24, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  21. Colony 14 author, Don F, Mount Prospect, Illinois

    I'm not sure what some of the posters here have been smoking. To clarify: Republican Presidents tend to nominate judges who believe in following the Constitution, leaving federal and state legislatures to pass the laws. Democrat Presidents tend to nominate judges who engage in judicial activism and try to "enact" laws from the bench, thus avoiding the necessity of legislators having to actually gather support from the citizenry. (As in, "We can't get enough votes in Congress to do what we want, but that's okay, we'll just get a judge to rule for us.")

    While you are free to prefer one process over the other, at least get your facts straight: judges don't get to MAKE the laws, they only get to rule on their legitimacy and Constitutionality. It's Congress that has to PASS the laws.

    October 24, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. Robb, New York

    The way federal judges are appointed to the bench needs to be drastically changed. It is ridiculous that it takes so long and so much political wrangling no matter what party is in charge of the Senate to get someone confirmed. Democrats bellyache when a nominee is too conservative for their taste; Republicans bellyache when a nominee is too liberal for their taste. Meanwhile, the concept of justice takes a back seat when it should be in the driver's seat. But justice means nothing to our political system. It's all about which bunch of babies shake their rattles loudest. Again, this is what happens when you let juveniles run the show. Are there any adults left?

    October 24, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  23. Mark. Shreveport, LA

    I noticed the people bashing this nominee have not given one instance of an inappropriate ruling or unconstitutional action by him.

    Methinks people are just parroting back far left blog attacks.

    October 24, 2007 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  24. pam Eugene OR

    I am a democrat and I was so happy to finally see a majority for my party in the senate. But, what the heck are they doing. It is like nothing changed. I understand why their approval rate is so low and about to get even lower. My party appears to be full of hot air and empty promises. I am very disapointed in them. They are acomplishing nother. Washington is exactly the same. Come on Dems and make a difference. I am voting for Obama 08 because there are NO other choices (plus I think he is a great candidate) but the Dems need to get their ship out of dry dock and start acting like they are indeed in control.
    Obama 08

    October 24, 2007 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. Yuseff, Lenexa Kansas

    Right wingers are all incensed when Democrats have concerns over any of Bush's appointments. Democrats have approved more of Bush's judicial appointments than the Republicans did in eight years of Bill Clinton. Orrin Hatch the then chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee publicly declared that NO nominee of Clinton would ever get a hearing while he was chairman. Things got so bad that that Chief Justice Robert Renquist personally appeared before the senate twice to beg them to approve new judges because the bottleneck of cases in the pipleline was so huge and the country didnt have enough judges to hear all the cases. Thanks to the Republicans for that mess.

    October 24, 2007 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
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