Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Re: Farr-Fetched Attack

In a New York Times op-ed last week, in a string of McCarthy-esque guilt-by-association charges, William Barber II shamelessly smears federal district nominee Thomas A. Farr as a white supremacist.

Typical of the quality of Barber’s claims is his assertion that during Jesse Helms’s 1990 Senate campaign Farr “participated in racist tactics to intimidate African-American voters” and then committed “apparent lying on the topic to the Senate Judiciary Committee.” As I discussed in this post, the supposed evidence for this claim consists of an unreliable partisan’s imaginative reconstruction of notes he made in his diary twenty-seven years ago about what he was told was said at a meeting with Department of Justice lawyers that he didn’t even attend. Farr and the campaign manager have attested that Farr played no role in the contested postcard mailing and learned about it only after the fact. That’s obviously what the Department of Justice also determined: DOJ negotiated the consent decree with him as counsel for the campaign (a DOJ veteran confirms for me that DOJ wouldn’t ordinarily negotiate directly with someone it believed was complicit in the wrongdoing) and, after its extensive investigation into the matter, did not name him as a defendant in its civil action.

Further, the American Bar Association’s judicial-evaluations committee has twice given Farr a unanimous “well qualified” rating—in its words, its “strongest affirmative endorsement”—both in connection with his current nomination and on his previous nomination back in the Bush 43 administration. That rating means that the ABA has found Farr to “be at the top of the legal profession in his … community,” to have “the highest reputation for integrity,” and to “demonstrate the capacity for sound judicial temperament,” including “freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice under the law.” It is farfetched to imagine that anyone against whom plausible allegations of racism or white supremacism could be leveled would earn such a rating.

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