Southwick Confirmation Spurs Controversy

Some lawmakers argue Judge Southwick's spotty civil rights record makes him unfit to serve on the federal court of appeals. Farai Chideya continues the conversation with Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), who opposes his confirmation.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Others still have concerns about Judge Southwick. One of them is Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan. She's also the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congresswoman, welcome.

Representative CAROLYN CHEEKS KILPATRICK (Democrat, Michigan; Chairwoman, Congressional Black Caucus): Hello. How are you? Good to be with you.

CHIDEYA: Thank you. So what makes you hesitant about Judge Southwick's nomination?

Rep. KILPATRICK: Judge Southwick's judicial record - his record of partiality and unfairness to women, to the environment, to the workplace, to civil liberties, to justice - it has the nothing to do with the man personally. I don't know him personally. We only go by his record, and his record shows that he'll be a disservice with this lifetime appointment on the second highest court in America, to all the - most of the people in America. And it's unfortunate that the Senate saw fit to pass him on.

CHIDEYA: Now, there were Democrats in the Senate, among them Dianne Feinstein of California who did confirm the nomination. What are your thoughts on that?

Rep. KILPATRICK: It's unfortunate. I speak for the people of America. And when you disenfranchise women, people of color, the environment, the work place, a highly racial partial judge, I don't, you know, I don't fault any senator for what they did. All we do is based on the record. The record of Justice Leslie Southwick is appalling as it relates to most Americans. And we think it's unfortunate that the Senate confirmed him for this lifetime appointment.

CHIDEYA: Which one of his decisions disturbs you the most?

Rep. KILPATRICK: They all, they all disturb us the most. You talk about his jury pools that he worked with in his court - he had 180 (unintelligible) court cases and he always rules against the citizens and the consumers for a big business. That's appalling. Women's rights and issues, the environment, you name it, not to mention the racist behavior that he's shown in his court, you know, here before. So there's a long litany of his record. And if anyone would check his record, he not only shouldn't have been confirmed, he should not have been nominated in the first place.

CHIDEYA: There's an agreement in the Senate that says members would only block the president's judicial nominations due to extraordinary circumstances. Do you feel this is an extraordinary circumstance?

Rep. KILPATRICK: Absolutely. For all the reasons I've already mentioned, it's extra extraordinary. When President Clinton was in office, the Senate held by a majority of Republicans set(ph) on all his judicial nominations for two years. There was no reason - they failed to appoint the senator in his fifth circuit on two other times with unrelenting, unworthy appointments, and they had no business giving this gentleman this lifetime appointment. There's no one agree (unintelligible) of unfair judicial prudence that this judge has had over and over and over again.

CHIDEYA: So what types of cases might the judge have to make decisions on in the future? What are you most afraid of, perhaps?

Rep. KILPATRICK: You have all kinds of cases. This is the United States Court of Appeals - the last stop for most Americans. Most American cases don't get to the Supreme Court. This is a penal court. Somehow we have all cases from work place to justice, to civil liberties, to women, to the environment, you name it. He will be over all of those and the last stop for many Americans and the less fortunate.

CHIDEYA: Now, you are the head of the Congressional Black Caucus. You…

Rep. KILPATRICK: And I speak for the Congressional Black Caucus 100 percent on this issue.

CHIDEYA: What role do you think that members like yourself, members of the Caucus, can play in a nation where, of course, you have the executive, the legislative and the judiciary - and all of those branches have different effects on civil rights - what can you and what can the CBC do?

Rep. KILPATRICK: We will continue to work together - 43 members from 21 states representing over 40 million Americans in those states, plus people of color all over America - to speak out for injustice, to fight the battles, the mobilize our elected so that we have better people in office, in Congress, in the Senate - yes - and in the presidency. For all of that, it's what we must do. There are several little Senators who are up this year, 2008, excuse me, we will regret in their constituents know how they voted on this Southwick issue, be they Republican or Democrat. We've got to mobilize America or else the children of America will never have justice and opportunity that our Constitution said they must have.

CHIDEYA: Congresswoman, thank you very much.

Rep. KILPATRICK: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.

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