Board Resolution ~ 05/01/2004(3)

Demanding that "60 Minutes" Correct its Segment on Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.'s Nomination

Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Demanding that "60 Minutes" Correct its Segment on Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.'s Nomination 

Nashville, Tennessee
May 1, 2004

WHEREAS,

1. “60 Minutes” on March 28, 2004, presented a broadcast segment narrated by correspondent Mike Wallace purporting to explain the background behind Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering, Sr.’s nomination to the United States Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit and

2. The segment omitted that:

a. As a law student judge Pickering wrote an article recommending changes to the state’s ban on interracial marriage so as to make it more effective;

b. He formed a three-person law firm with Carroll Garten who described himself in a gubernatorial campaign as a “total segregationist;”

c. Judge Pickering, in switching from the Democratic Party to the Re-Publican Party at a time when the national party demanded that the state integrate its delegation to the national convention, wrote that “the people of our state were heaped with humiliation and embarrassment at the Democratic Convention” and that the Republican Party offered the “only hope of rescuing our national government from the ever-increasing tendency toward socialism;”

d. Judge Pickering apparently co-wrote and signed a letter as county attorney for Jones County in 1965 which condemned Klan violence while simultaneously expressing a commitment to “continuing our Southern way of life” (a reference used in Gartens’s campaign ads) and condemning “outside agitators [who] caused much turmoil and racial hatred.”

e. Judge Pickering at first claimed during his 1980 district judge confirmation hearing that he had no connection to the Sovereignty Commission – an organization established in the 1950’s to fight desegregation and which harassed and terrorized civil rights and labor activists – but he later recanted the claim when the Washington Post unearthed campaign records which revealed a 1972 memorandum which Judge Pickering and four other politicians stated they were “very interested” in the commission’s probe of liberal groups’ involvement in a local labor dispute and “requested to be advised of developments.”

f. That state chapters of the NAACP in Louisiana and Texas – both in the Fifth Circuit – have opposed the nomination as well;

g. The Magnolia Bar Association, the statewide African-American bar association, has strongly and consistently opposed Judge Pickering’s nomination;

h. Judge Pickering is opposed by United States Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the State Legislative Black Caucus;

i. Judge Pickering has been unsupportive to voting rights cases calling the one-person-one-vote doctrine obtrusive and criticizing efforts to increase minority voting power as “affirmative segregation;”

j. Judge Pickering has solicited letters of support for his nomination from lawyers who have pending cases before him;

k. Judge Pickering’s incredible claim at his February 2002 hearing that his high number of dismissals of employment discrimination claims was due to the fact that almost all of these cases coming before the federal court have no merit;

l. Judge Pickering’s reference to a cross-burning episode perpetrated against an inter-racial couple with a 2-year-old child as a “drunken prank.”

m. Judge Pickering berated prosecutors, including calls to their homes, to drop a charge enabling him to impose a lesser sentence on Swan;

n. The other two defendants in the cross-burning case who pled guilty were differently situated from Swan, one being a minor and the other having a diminished mental capacity;

o. That Swan had a major role in the execution of the crime by obtaining the wood, building the cross, carrying it in his truck, dousing it with gas and bringing it to the couple’s front yard;

p. Senator Charles Schumer opposed Judge Pickering’s nomination on a wide number of grounds and not, as it was made to appear on the broadcast, on the cross-burning case alone;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT,

The NACDL demands that “60 Minutes” correct the record by presenting another segment that fully airs and devotes time to a complete exposition of Judge Pickering’s record and offers time for a rebuttal of the claims presented in the March 28 broadcast. 

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