The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to allow Mississippi Judge Leslie Southwick to stand for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The action means his nomination no longer is bottled up in the committee but is headed for a vote in the full Senate sometime this fall.
It’s not a victory for Republicans or conservatives but for basic fairness and the kind of bipartisan statesmanship we need more of in the Senate today.
The committee vote was close, but Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, to her credit, cast the deciding vote to move forward with Judge Southwick. Even though he’s a conservative judge and she’s a liberal Senator, Senator Feinstein, like me, hopes the Senate can move past partisan politics and return to confirming judges based on their character, education and experience.
Senator Feinstein’s decision is a credit to her character and leadership, and it should be commended and emulated.
Senator Thad Cochran and I worked very hard behind the scenes to secure support for Judge Southwick. It isn’t easy in a Senate that’s been overcome with partisan stagnation, but the Committee vote is a step in the right direction that I hope is a harbinger of things to come.
Judge Southwick has been attacked very unfairly by liberal activist groups. These groups have one purpose – to put judges on the bench who will enact laws to move their agenda. They know Judge Southwick is a “strict constructionist” who will interpret the law as written, no matter what the political fallout.
Though Judge Southwick had been unanimously confirmed to a lower federal court last year, many Democratic Senators on the Committee had refused to confirm Judge Southwick solely because liberal groups manufactured objections against him – recurring boiler-plate accusations they raise against every conservative nominee from Mississippi.
Those phony accusations have been debunked. Judge Southwick heads to the full Senate, having forthrightly confronted and addressed all the charges raised against his nomination.
Judge Southwick has served Mississippi for many years – as a judge and soldier who volunteered and served in Iraq. He’s also a family man, a person of faith and a well-respected jurist whose character and reputation had never been attacked before President Bush nominated him for the 5th Circuit vacancy, on the recommendation of Senator Cochran and me.
That he was always well respected until the liberal Washington-based groups attacked him, says more about Washington’s current reputation than anything about Judge Southwick.
When the Senate reconvenes in September, I’m optimistic that most Senators will not consider the raucous rhetoric and false charges that have been levied against Judge Southwick – charges those who made them know aren’t true. I believe the Senate will rise to the higher standard that our Founding Fathers expected.
Our founding fathers saw the Senate as a place where passions and partisanship took a back seat to statesmanship. With no offense to the House of Representatives where I served for 16 years, the Senate is supposed to be the house of Congress where dignity, reason and, yes, bipartisan compromise, prevail. It’s time the Senate returned to our roots, grounded in fulfilling our duty to the American people by confirming good people like Judge Leslie Southwick to the bench.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email