NASW Opposes Pickering Nomination


The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
United States Senate
Senate Russell Office Building – 433
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Leahy:

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), I am writing to convey our profound opposition to the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering, Sr. to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal courts often are called the guardians of the Constitution because their rulings safeguard the rights and liberties guaranteed by this extraordinary document. To many Americans, the federal judiciary is the initial line of defense against violations of endearing constitutional principles; for others, it is the final bastion of hope in a system that has marginalized, mistreated, or merely denied the existence of vulnerable people.

NASW contends that the composition of the federal judiciary is a civil rights issue of supreme significance to all Americans, because the individuals charged with dispensing justice in our society have a direct correlation on civil rights protections for all. After prudent and careful examination of Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.’s public record–from law student to state legislator to judge, we have concluded that his views on civil rights, women’s rights, and constitutional issues do not reflect the embodiment of fairness and impartiality and affront the bedrock American principles of equality and democracy.

For example, as a Mississippi legislator, Judge Pickering fought implementation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and cosponsored a resolution for its repeal. Judge Pickering supported the notorious and secretive Mississippi Sovereignty Commission, a state-funded agency established to oppose integration efforts after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. In1976 Judge Pickering supported the first-ever inclusion of a plank in the Republican Party platform protesting the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade and calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban abortion. In 1993 Judge Pickering published an opinion questioning the "one-person-one-vote" doctrine as "obtrusive" and assailed court-ordered redistricting.

These immoderate positions should disqualify Judge Pickering from serious consideration for any federal circuit, much less the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which issues numerous important opinions that affect ethnic minorities in the desegregated South. Therefore, NASW is compelled to affirm that Judge Pickering is the wrong jurist for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This circuit requires a jurist who will have a moderating influence on the court and a record of no hostility to the laws and principles that ensure equal opportunity for all Americans. It is overwhelmingly clear that Judge Pickering’s record demonstrates his serious, long-standing and consistent disregard for civil rights and individual liberties. We urge the Senate to exercise its constitutional prerogative and reject this nominee. The American people deserve jurists who will not threaten the civil rights protections won over the past 50 years.


>Elizabeth J. Clark

Elizabeth J. Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH
Executive Director