November 29, 2018; NPR, “Politics”
A notorious documented judicial advocate of voter suppression laws was all set to be confirmed by the Senate for a seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina yesterday, when Senator Tim Scott, the lone Black Republican in that body, decided to join fellow GOP Senator Jeff Flake and all of the Democratic members in opposing the president’s nomination.
Thomas Farr, as Senator Jesse Helms’s top lawyer, was involved in voter suppression efforts targeting African Americans during Helms’s 1990 campaign, according to a Justice Department memo obtained by the Washington Post.
In a statement, Scott said, “Confirming judicial nominees is one of the most important responsibilities of a United States Senator. I take my role in that process very seriously, as we want to ensure the judicial branch remains honest, fair, and impartial.”
The statement continues, “This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination.”
Democrats had zeroed in on Farr’s defense of a controversial North Carolina voter ID law, which a court struck down for finding it had targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.” They also criticized his relationship with Helms, who vocally opposed civil rights and integration.
For his part, Flake said he wouldn’t support any more of Trump’s judicial nominees until the Senate takes up a measure to protect special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation but he also indicated that he would have opposed Farr anyway.
The final vote on Farr’s nomination has been delayed from yesterday into next week, but there is a chance that it will not get that far.
This seat has significant symbolic meaning, because two Black women nominees were blocked for the same seat by Senate Republicans during the Obama administration.—Ruth McCambridge