My nomination and permanent appointment to the Fifth Circuit Court of
Appeals has been pending before the full Senate for more than one year. The
recess appointment given to me by President Bush on January 16, 2004 expires
when Congress adjourns. Opposition by some Democratic senators prevented an
up or down vote on my nomination. A minority of senators prevented the
majority from confirming me to a permanent position on the Fifth Circuit.
The actions of the minority leave me with no alternative than to retire as
I thank Senator Trent Lott for fighting for my nomination. He made
Herculean efforts on my behalf. I thank Senator Thad Cochran for his
consistent and steady support. I thank my son Congressman Chip Pickering
who fought hard for my nomination, my reputation and the image of
Mississippi. I thank President George Bush for nominating me in 2001, in
2003 and in 2004. I am grateful for his strong support throughout the
process, including his invitation to the White House to support my
nomination, and then for giving me the recess appointment.
My confirmation struggle lasted four years. Although I would prefer
confirmation, I am in good spirits and at peace with the result. My faith
is strong. I will continue to be involved in community and civic affairs.
I will also speak out on issues relating to confirmation reform. I feel I
can be a constructive voice in this vitally important debate.
The bitter fight over judicial confirmations threatens the quality and the
independence of the judiciary. The mean-spiritedness and lack of civility
reduces the pool of nominees willing to offer themselves for service on the
bench. For the first time in the history of the Senate, judicial
nominations were blocked by filibusters.
The recent election demonstrated that the American people rejected this
unprecedented obstruction by the minority Senate leadership. Those voices
will continue to be heard until the confirmation process is reformed and
judicial filibusters ended.
Extreme special interest groups opposed my nomination primarily due to their
hostility to any nominee with strong religious convictions who personally
disagrees with them on abortion, marriage and references to God at public
ceremonies and institutions. They demonstrate their intolerance and
religious prejudices not just in opposing my nomination, but also that of
the Catholic nominees who hold deep religious beliefs. These groups believe
nominees with committed religious values are not qualified to serve on
America’s federal courts, despite the fact that our judicial records,
statements and testimony demonstrate a commitment to uphold the law and
current precedents. These far left groups cowed Democrat leadership into
opposing my nomination. In doing so, they pushed those Senators out of the
American mainstream, some out of their Senate seats, and the Democratic
Party out of entire regions of the country.
I thank all of the Republican Senators who without exception supported my
nomination. I also thank Democratic Senators Zell Miller, John Breaux and
Ben Nelson and the only Senate Independent, Jim Jeffords, for supporting my
nomination and their courage to fairly examine my record.
I will always be grateful to the people of Mississippi – both black and
white, both Democrat and Republican – who supported my confirmation with
their prayers, their words of encouragement, letters of support and trips to
Washington to speak on my behalf. The people of Mississippi are a constant
source of encouragement to me and my family. Most of all I want to express
appreciation to my wife who walks with me each day through this journey.
Margaret Ann and I are at peace. I look forward to the opportunities to
contribute to my State and community in the future. I am blessed by my
experiences on the Court and the work of all those who serve the Court and
the administration of justice.