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Press Release

Senate Refuses to Rubber-Stamp Pickering for Lifetime Judgeship

Environmental groups oppose Pickering based on his extreme record

October 30, 2003

Contact:

Glenn Sugameli, Earthjustice, 202-667-4500

Washington, DC-- Today, the Senate blocked the re-nomination of Mississippi federal trial judge Charles Pickering, Sr. to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“As a trial judge, Judge Pickering has an extreme record of anti-environmental rulings and ethical violations,” said Glenn Sugameli, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm. “We commend the Senators who refused today to rubber-stamp Pickering’s lifetime promotion to an appeals court. We urge President Bush to respect the Senate’s constitutional advise-and-consent responsibility, and stop trying to pack the federal courts with the most extreme anti-environmental ideologues he can find.”

In a letter to the Senate, 18 major environmental and planning organizations urged defeat of Pickering’s re-nomination to this crucial appeals court judgeship, based upon his extreme record as a federal trial judge. For example:

  • Pickering unjustifiably denied citizens access to the courts to seek redress for environmental and other harms. He was repeatedly reversed on appeal for improperly dismissing victims' toxic-tort claims concerning a Superfund site.

  • Pickering issued a remarkable ruling in favor of a developer that filed a lawsuit to forestall any challenges to a wetlands permit for a proposed casino in one of North America’s most important estuarine habitats. He wrongly issued an Order barring the Sierra Club and local groups from challenging the casino project in any other court but his. Incredibly, Judge Pickering improperly extended his Order to “all persons having knowledge of” its existence, and only retracted it after the case had been briefed on appeal.

  • Judicial ethics experts have confirmed serious ethical violations by Judge Pickering. These include repeatedly violating ethical requirements in order to reduce to below mandatory minimums the sentence of a man convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of a mixed-race couple in rural Mississippi. He also unethically and coercively solicited attorneys who had cases pending in his court to fax him letters supporting his pending circuit court nomination, which Pickering then read before forwarding to the Senate.