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Vote on Controversial Judicial Nominee Delayed, Leahy Suggests Withdraw of Nomination

The Senate Judiciary Committee has again delayed voting on the nomination of Leslie Southwick to the US Court of Appeals for the fifth circuit. Southwick was nominated this year by President Bush, receiving criticism from women’s rights and civil rights groups, including formal opposition from the Feminist Majority. Among the cases that caused concern was a 2001 case in which Judge Southwick joined the majority to deprive a mother of custody of her child because of her involvement in a same-sex relationship. In 1998, Judge Southwick ruled for a Mississippi state agency to reinstate an employee who was fired for using racial slurs when referring to an African-American employee. Environmental groups have also come forward to oppose Judge Southwick’s nomination.

Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) suggested last week that President Bush withdraw his nomination of Southwick and instead nominate an African-American candidate to serve in the fifth district, which includes Mississippi. “Mississippi has never had an African-American on the circuit even though it has the largest African-American population of any state,” Sen. Leahy told the Congressional Quarterly. White House counsel responded to Sen. Leahy’s request, saying that President Bush will not withdraw his nomination.

In the meantime, Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked Sen. Leahy to delay the committee’s vote on Southwick for the third time, so that Sen. Specter may have another week — to “spend my time — perhaps waste my time,” he told the Clarion-Ledger — to convince Senate Democrats to support Southwick. Both Leahy and Specter say the majority of the committee oppose Southwick’s nomination, though only Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) has said he would not vote for him, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Specter insists, however, that the Committee vote on Southwick, even just to send the nomination to the Senate floor with an unfavorable recommendation, CQ reports.

Sources:

Clarion-Ledger 6/15/07; CQ 6/14/07; National Women's Law Center 6/6/07; Legal Momentum 6/7/07