Pickering in his own defense
March 30, 2004
Given the tough, penetrating reporting that marks the program and the traditional reluctance of federal judges to expose themselves to questions, we were surprised when federal Judge Charles Pickering agreed to an on-camera interview with Mike Wallace of the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes." Now, having seen the program Sunday night, we are so happy he did.
Pickering, speaking in his own defense, made a splendid argument with his trademark gentlemanly and scholarly approach. He answered all of his liberal critics' baseless accusations about his character and three-decade record on civil rights and personal liberties.
The judge presented his defense in a non-partisan, non-threatening, orderly fashion that we believe went a long way toward clearing his name. Some of his harshest critics, most notably New York Sen. Charles Schumer, apparently chose not to listen when Pickering made similar arguments before a Senate committee that refused to endorse his nomination to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
President Bush placed Pickering on the Appeals Court bench under a recess appointment; he can serve until next year. Clearly, Pickering deserves a permanent appointment.
As a progressive Mississippian who sent his children to integrated public schools when other parents were deserting public schools for private academies, as a white lawyer who represented black clients, as a prosecutor who worked fearlessly with the FBI to send Ku Klux Klansmen to jail, and as the state GOP leader who reached out to black voters, Pickering has carved out a long and distinguished career.
As the interview brought out, Pickering is a progressive human being who has been instrumental in building a better Mississippi. And, as the interview so aptly illustrated, the only people still living in the 1960s are people like Schumer. Mississippi thank God and with the diligent grassroots work of good people like Pickering has moved on.