Remember the courts?

The Bush Administration is trying to slip another extremist judicial appointment through a distracted Congress with the nomination of Leslie H. Southwick, a former Mississippi Court of Appeals judge, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a New Orleans-based court that hears cases from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Southwick offers a truly lamentable record of rulings on civil and equal rights and a history that staunchly favors special interests over individual rights and liberties. As an exhaustive report by the Alliance for Justice shows, Southwick has gone out of his way to express troubling views on workers’ rights, has joined strikingly homophobic decisions and has voted consistently against consumers and workers in divided torts and employment cases.

In 1995 he joined a decision, over a strong dissent, upholding a ruling taking away an eight-year-old girl from her mother and awarding full custody to the father, largely because the woman was living in a “lesbian home.” Southwick went even further a few years later and joined a gratuitously anti-gay opinion underscoring Mississippi’s right, under “the principles of Federalism,” to treat gay men and lesbians like second-class citizens. In another case, again over strong dissents, Southwick joined an opinion upholding the reinstatement without any disciplinary action of a white state employee who had been fired for calling a co-worker a “good ole nigger.”

And this is just what we know! As AFJ founder Nan Aron noted, “Perhaps as disturbing as what we do know about Judge Southwick is what we don’t know. Thousands of pages of unpublished opinions he joined have not yet been made available to the public. The burden is on Judge Southwick to demonstrate his qualifications for a lifetime appointment. It is a burden he has failed to meet.”

That’s why there’s been mounting opposition by both state and national civil rights groups over Judge Southwick’s record. The Congressional Black Caucus, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for the American Way, Human Rights Campaign, National Employment Lawyers Association, National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, Mississippi NAACP and the Magnolia Bar are all calling for his defeat.

Check out the AFJ’s report for more background on Southwick’s sordid resume. Then, if you’re sufficiently appalled, join the opposition by clicking here to implore your reps to vote against this nominee. This is a fight that can be won.