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Pickering announces retirement, won’t seek re-nomination

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (BP)–Charles Pickering, whose nomination was filibustered by Senate Democrats and who was placed on the appeals court by President Bush with a recess appointment, announced his retirement Dec. 9.

Pickering, 67, announced that he would not seek re-nomination for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in New Orleans and covers the states of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

“I have fought this battle for four years and I think for me, and my family, the time is right to move on,” he said at a news conference in Hattiesburg, Miss., according to the Associated Press. “President Bush can now nominate someone younger who will be able to serve longer, which I believe is in the best interest of the court.”

Pickering had enough votes for confirmation in 2003 but not enough votes to overcome the filibuster by Senate Democrats. Needing 60 votes in October 2003 to halt the filibuster, he received only 54.

In January of this year Bush used a recess appointment to place Pickering on the court. The recess term expires in January 2005.

Pickering, a federal judge in Mississippi’s Southern District for 12 years, is a member of First Baptist Church in Laurel, Miss. He was a member of the Peace Committee established in 1985 to address issues related to the theological controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention at the time.

He also served two years in the mid-1980s as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

Pickering said he wants to be an advocate for race relations and for reforming the Senate confirmation process.

“The bitter fight over judicial confirmations threatens the quality and the independence of the judiciary,” he said. “The mean-spiritedness and lack of civility reduces the pool of nominees willing to offer themselves for service on the bench.”

Senate Democrats have blocked 10 of Bush’s judicial nominees during the past 10 years. Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Bill Frist, say that such filibusters are unconstitutional. Frist has said in recent weeks that the GOP is considering changing the rules to prevent judicial filibusters.

“Judge Pickering would have been a tremendous asset to our beleaguered judicial system,” Tony Perkins, president of the pro-family group Family Research Council, said in a statement. “Instead, liberal Democratic senators, aligned with far left groups, unfairly attacked and slandered this fine man.

“… While I am saddened that Judge Pickering’s judicial career has ended, I look forward to working with him as he speaks out in favor of much-needed confirmation reform.”

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