Bench Memos

NRO’s home for judicial news and analysis.

Fifth Circuit Nominee Leslie Southwick


Former Mississippi state judge Leslie Southwick, nominated to the Fifth Circuit vacancy to which Michael B. Wallace had previously been nominated, had his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.  Unlike Wallace, who was savaged by the ABA judicial-evaluations committee, Southwick was unanimously rated “well qualified”—the ABA’s top rating.  But that hasn’t stopped the Left from attacking him.


The primary piece of evidence being used against Southwick is his joining an en banc decision by the Mississippi court of appeals that affirmed an administrative ruling that an ugly racial slur by a public employee did not justify the sanction of terminating her employment.  In a joint letter to Senators Leahy and Specter, the Human Rights Campaign and People for the American Way present this as the first of two cases that are “highly disturbing” and that “strongly suggest that Southwick may lack … commitment to social justice progress.”  They state in italics that the decision was “unanimously reversed.”  And this Houston Chronicle op-ed yesterday by Cragg Hines contends that the decision was so “egregious … that it was overturned unanimously—repeat, unanimously—by the Mississippi Supreme Court—repeat, Mississippi.”


In fact, the majority ruling of the Mississippi supreme court, on appeal, agreed with the lower court that termination was not an appropriate remedy:  “Under the particular circumstances of this case, Bonnie Richmond’s use of a racial slur on a single occasion does not rise to level of creating a hostile work environment, and therefore does not warrant dismissal of her from employment with DHS.” 


The Mississippi supreme court somewhat altered the judgment that Southwick’s court had reached, as it remanded the case to the administrative agency “for the imposition of a lesser penalty, or to make detailed findings on the record why no penalty should be imposed.”  That’s the minor sense in which it’s technically true that there was a unanimous reversal.  (The case, Richmond v. Mississippi Dep’t of Human Services, can be obtained by search here.)


I continue to be amazed by the gall (or is it just incompetence?) of the Left in mischaracterizing the records of judicial nominees.  It’s all the more amazing when one compares the records of those the Left attacks to the records of Clinton nominees like Rosemary Barkett and Lee Sarokin.

Tags: Whelan


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