Bil Browning

Bush backs another homophobic nominee

Filed By Bil Browning | May 31, 2007 11:54 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics, The Movement
Tags: BushCo, conservatism, federal judge, fundamentalist, homophobic people, Leslie Southwick, Mississippi, nominations, racist

l-southwick-100.jpgThat darn Bush. He just can't stop himself. That seat on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is just crying for a racist homophobe to sit on the bench. First he nominates Charles Pickering (who even Republicans couldn't stomach!) and then upgraded to even more bigoted Michael Wallace who didn't pass muster either.

So who's a beleaguered President to turn to now? Former Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge Leslie Southwick, that's who. Don't remember Leslie? Let me share with you a couple of the highlights of his previous decisions on the Appeals court...

  • In 1998, while on the Mississippi Court of Appeals, Southwick joined a ruling in an employment case that upheld the reinstatement, without any punishment whatsoever, of a white state employee who was fired for calling an African American co-worker a "good ole nigger." The court's decision effectively ratified a hearing officer's opinion that the slur was only "somewhat derogatory" and "was in effect calling the individual a 'teacher's pet.'" The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision.
  • In 2001, Southwick joined a ruling that upheld a chancellor's decision to take an eight-year-old girl away from her mother and award custody to the father, who had never married the mother, largely because the mother was living with another woman in a "lesbian home." Southwick went even further by joining a gratuitously anti-gay concurrence which extolled Mississippi's right under "the principles of Federalism" to treat "homosexual persons" as second-class citizens. The concurrence suggested that sexual orientation is a choice and stated that an adult is not "relieved of the consequences of his or her choice" -- e.g., losing custody of one's child.

Next week the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up Mr. Southwick's nomination and it's crucial that he not be confirmed. Down With Tyranny has an excellent analysis of the committee's members and who needs to be contacted immediately. After the Dems caved on Iraq, do you really think they'd be willing to put their necks on the line for basic social justice? Yeah, I'll be writing too...


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I urge the President to find a better candidate than Leslie Southwick, whose actions have shown him to be unworthy and insensitive. To allow this nomination to be confirmed would condone and legitimize his obvious disregard for issues that confront minority communities. Southwick made a decision in Richmond v. Mississippi Dept. of Human Services to uphold the reinstatement of a worker who referred to a co-worker as a "good-ole nigger" after a hearing officer found that calling the employee "a good ole nigger' was the equivalent of calling the employee a "teacher's pet." Southwick also has a proven pattern of approving peremptory challenges that exclude minorities from juries (striking persons from serving on a jury, usually without giving a reason). Those who serve on the bench must not only have a good judicial temperament and be well-versed in the law, they must also have a sound understanding of what constitutes invidious discrimination, as well as what constitutes a hostile work environment.

We have to assume that people may give us only one clue into their inner-most thinking. We cannot avoid the clues given to us by Southwick in his Richmond v. Mississippi Dept. of Human Services ruling and his rulings on race discrimination in jury selection. These rulings are indicative of Southwick's willingness to condone overt bigotry and engage in covert discrimination. We cannot ignore this evidence before us-- it must be examined before it is too late and a lifetime appointment is made.

Cragg Hines of the Houston Chronicle was absolutely on target when he compared Southwick to Don Imus. Judges have a necessity to be impartial. Southwick and his Imus-like mentality must not be allowed to serve on the bench in the 5th Circuit, the federal circuit with the highest percentage of minorities. Though we may not have evidence on how he would view other minorities, the evidence we do have tells us this is not a person with an adequate understanding of minority issues. It is essential, knowing what we know now, for the President to rethink and withdraw the nomination of Leslie Southwick to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals-- Southwick is not the only person available. There are other candidates who are capable, competent, and qualified without this Imus-like mentality and they must be considered.