Judge Leslie Southwick… a vote for statesmanship

Published 2:13 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2007

With a bipartisan 59 to 38 vote, the Senate confirmed Mississippi Judge Leslie Southwick to serve on the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. This vote was about more than confirming a federal judge. It was a vote for statesmanship, reaffirming the Senate’s commitment to putting the nation’s needs before that of partisan, political agendas.

Like every recent judicial nominee from Mississippi, Judge Southwick was attacked by liberal advocacy groups in Washington. These groups’ narrow agendas include abortion on demand and gay marriage. To achieve their goals, they need liberal judges, and they’ve made a habit of opposing any judicial nominee from conservative Mississippi.

They don’t just oppose on ideological grounds. They get dirty. They smear people, professionally and personally. Their smear machine is fueled by lies – taking statements and cases out of context, distorting and demonizing the nominee. They tried it again with Leslie Southwick.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The problem was their allegations weren’t even close to truth, not even in the ballpark. Anyone who knows Judge Southwick understands he is a man of reasoned judgment. He’s a judge who is distinguished, circumspect and free of prejudices — not a man easily branded.

I asked Judge Southwick to visit Washington and talk to Democratic Senators. At the same time, Senator Thad Cochran and I visited with our colleagues about Judge Southwick.

Once Senators got to know him, they saw the real man, and they saw just how absurd and off-base the special interest groups’ charges against him really were. Even some liberal Senate Democrats couldn’t in good conscience oppose Judge Southwick’s nomination, based on the shallow, pathetic trash thrown at him by the outside groups. If anything, the process just confirmed Judge Southwick’s strong character and exposed the smear artists’ lack of it.

My hope now is that this vote leads to more like it, where Republicans and Democrats in Congress will distance themselves from propaganda often generated by outside, highly partisan groups.

After all, America didn’t elect advocacy groups to anything. Senators should always vote their conscience regardless of any particular lobby campaign waged by the single-minded special interests.

Judge Southwick now will take a seat on a court that hears appeals cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Mississippi needs a strong presence on this court, and I believe Judge Southwick’s addition to it is good for our state and the judiciary as a whole, where many vacancies need to be filled.

Our Constitution’s framers specifically charged the Senate with confirming the President’s judicial nominees. When performing that task, the overall priority should be to do what is best for the pursuit of justice. Cases involving murder, robbery, assault, money laundering, tax evasion – those are the kinds of issues federal judges field daily. It’s important to have judges to hear these cases and dispense justice quickly. Never should we allow federal judicial vacancies to languish and be held up for political gainsmanship. Americans of all political stripes should agree that the court is not a platform for political statements, but a place for serious, straightforward judgment.

Some of the groups who opposed Judge Southwick now are threatening Democratic Senators with retribution for supporting Judge Southwick. The key to regaining the trust of the American people lies not with satisfying any advocacy group in Washington, but with continuing the bipartisan statesmanship the Senate regained in the Southwick vote.

(Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comment about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (attn: Press Office))