Senate panel advances Trump court pick opposed by civil rights groups

Senate panel advances Trump court pick opposed by civil rights groups
© Greg Nash

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to advance the nomination of a controversial judicial nominee who has been opposed by civil rights groups.

In an 11-9 vote, the panel sent Thomas Farr’s nomination to a seat on the federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina to the Senate floor for a vote.

An attorney in private practice and currently a shareholder in the Raleigh office of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Farr has represented state Republican leadership in redistricting and voting rights cases.

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In a report, the liberal Alliance for Justice noted Farr recently defended North Carolina in cases challenging the state's strict voter ID law. The law was ultimately struck down by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which said Republican legislators enacted the law with the intent to discriminate against black voters.

Civil rights groups blasted Senate Republicans.

“Once again the GOP majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee is rubber-stamping Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE's nomination of a person with an extreme and disturbing record for the federal bench,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice.

The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP's Kennedy sends warning shot to Trump nominee Menashi Democratic senators quietly hope Biden wins over rivals Grassley: Kavanaugh classmate didn't contact Senate panel MORE (D-Calif.), said she could not support Farr’s nomination to a seat that has sat vacant since 2005.

She read aloud from a letter the Congressional Black Caucus sent the committee opposing his nomination. “It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sought to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers’ rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so,” the CBC said in its letter.

Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTillis trails Democratic Senate challenger by 2 points: poll Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-N.C.) vouched for Farr before the committee vote, calling him well regarded across the political spectrum.

“He’s received [a] well qualified rating from the [American Bar Association] on two different occasions, which many members on this committee consider to be the gold standard,” he said.  

In a statement, Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division under former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMost voters say there is too much turnover in Trump administration Trump's 'soldier of fortune' foreign policy Warren picks up key endorsement from Iowa state treasurer MORE and now serves as president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called Farr’s nomination a reward for obstructionism.

“This seat is the oldest judicial vacancy in the country, which remained open for eight years under President Obama because Republican senators blocked two highly qualified African-American women, Jennifer May-Parker and Patricia Timmons-Goodson, from filling the seat,” she said.

“Either of these nominees, if confirmed, would have been the first African American to serve in the 143-year history of this district. The nomination of Thomas Farr to this judgeship adds insult to injury.”

President George W. Bush first nominated Farr to the sear in 2006 then again in 2007, but his nomination never got a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In its letter, the CBC reminded committee members that Farr severed as the lawyer on Jesse Helms’s campaign for a North Carolina Senate seat in 1992. The campaign was accused of mailing 100,000 postcards, mostly to African-Americans, warning they might be ineligible to vote and could be arrested if they came to the polls.