The Senate postponed to next week the confirmation vote on Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr to be a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina.
The vote was scheduled for noon Thursday, but shortly after 11 a.m. it was moved due to the absence of Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, who had a death in the family.
A divided Senate on Wednesday advanced Farr’s nomination to fill a judgeship on the U.S. District Court in the eastern district. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote during Wednesday’s procedural vote. Without Inhofe — or another Republican — Farr’s confirmation likely would have failed.
The seat has been open since the Jan. 1, 2006, retirement of Malcolm J. Howard. Farr was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007, but never received a vote. President Barack Obama nominated two African-American women for the court, but neither received a vote. Farr was nominated for the seat by President Donald Trump in 2017 and again in 2018
The district covers 44 counties stretching from Raleigh to the Atlantic coast. The population of the district is 27 percent African-American, and no black judge has ever been seated on the court.
Farr’s nomination was bitterly contested by Democrats, all of whom voted against the nomination Thursday, and civil rights groups, who cited Farr’s work for former Sen. Jesse Helms and more recent work defending North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers in lawsuits over voter ID and gerrymandering. Critics have called Farr hostile to voting rights.
“Thomas Farr is not fit to serve. He has a long, long history of being hostile to voting rights and voter suppression,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Wilson Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
And of course, these clowns are Farr’s biggest supporters:
North Carolina’s Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Richard M. Burr, have defended Farr as well regarded across the political spectrum and rated “well-qualified” by the American Bar Association. Farr often represented Republicans in North Carolina and worked on issues of constitutional law, employment law and worker safety.
Tillis said Tuesday that the criticism raised by Democrats is “covered ground.” Farr, he said, was asked to defend a North Carolina law with provisions that fall short of other state election laws that are still on the books.
“It’s basically downsized Kavanaugh tactics as far as I’m concerned,” Tillis said, alluding to Democratic opposition this fall to Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh that Republicans criticized as unfairly attacking the nominee’s character.
There are signs that Farr’s confirmation might be defeated even with Republicans holding a 51-49 majority. The Senate Judiciary Committee last advanced Farr’s nomination to the floor in January, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has prioritized other judicial nominees since then.
Schumer said all Senate Democrats oppose Farr’s nomination. With Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake pledging to vote against all judicial nominees until there is a floor vote on a bill to protect the special counsel investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election, just one more Republican vote would sink Farr’s nomination.
Opponents pin some of their hopes on South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the Senate’s lone black Republican, who in July opposed the nomination of Ryan Bounds of Oregon to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based on racially tinged writings by Bounds in college. Bounds’ nomination, which was on the cusp of a floor vote, was instead withdrawn.
Tillis faces the voters for re-election in 2020. It’s not surprising Tillis would want this “Vote-Suppressor-In-Chief” to become a judge because Tillis represents one of the most gerrymandered states in the country:
Democrats say North Carolina is Exhibit A in how maps can defy the will of voters.
“These districts have been so gerrymandered in a partisan way that even in a year that was positive for Democrats, when you had really top-notch candidates running, who ran top-notch campaigns with a lot of funding, Democrats weren’t able to get through that hurdle,” said Morgan Jackson, a political adviser to Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.
Republicans say the results reflect both voter preferences — North Carolina goes Republican in most federal races — and residential patterns. Democrats tend to be concentrated in urban areas, while Republicans are distributed more efficiently across suburban and rural terrain.
“That we have pretty close elections statewide is as relevant as how long an elephant can tap-dance on Mars,” said Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. “We draw district lines based on where people live, and the fact is an overwhelming amount of Democrats live in a handful of counties.”
While that pattern is well documented nationwide, registered Democrats actually outnumber registered Republicans in 57 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to data published by the North Carolina State Board of Elections. And Republicans have been quite candid about the role partisan politics plays in how North Carolinians are represented.
The Republicans drew their first maps — for Congress and for the state legislature — after the 2010 census. Federal courts found that those maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered based on race, to which legislators responded in 2016 by drawing a second set based largely on party.
State Representative David Lewis, a Republican redistricting committee leader, openly called the congressional map a “political gerrymander” when it was drafted, and said it would produce 10 Republicans and three Democrats because “I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
Eighty-seven of North Carolina’s 100 counties are intact within a single district, as redistricting guidelines urge. Mr. Woodhouse said it was impossible to keep more than that intact and still follow the requirement that each district have an equal population. But the counties are grouped in ways that help Republicans.
“We’re in charge,” Mr. Woodhouse said. “That’s the way it works.”
Republicans also benefited from which 13 counties they chose to split. The results can be seen clearly in Guilford County, home of Greensboro, North Carolina’s third-largest city and a Democratic stronghold. The legislature split the city between the Sixth and 13th Districts, which had the effect of dissolving its voters into the red seas of North Carolinians outside the city limits and leaving the city represented entirely by Republicans in Congress.
Tillis must be nervous because not only is he running for re-election during a Presidential election along with Governor Roy Cooper (D. NC) running for re-election, he might also be worried about how Democrats made gains in the North Carolina Supreme Court:
Democrat Anita Earls won a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court after besting two Republicans on the ballot.
Earls, a civil rights lawyer who worked in the Department of Justice in the Clinton administration, earned 49.5 percent of the vote and 1,779,592 votes. Barbara Jackson finished second in the race with 34.1 percent of the vote.
Chris Anglin, whose appearance on the ballot as a Republican was a point of contention, finished third in the race with 16.4 percent of the vote. Republican legislators had sought to prevent him from running in the race because he previously had been registered as a Democrat. Lawmakers passed a law to remove the GOP label from his name on the ballot, but Anglin sued and a judge ruled in his favor.
Earls’ win was trumpeted by the North Carolina Democratic Party. The state’s party chairman, Wayne Goodwin, said the party was “incredibly proud of all that she has accomplished and all that she will accomplish as a justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court.”
Democrats also won seats on the NC Court of Appeals, including John Arrowood, Tobias Hampson and Allegra Katherine Collins.
And North Carolina Democrats are making this a serious fight:
North Carolina Democrats are taking a new approach in their latest legal challenge to Republican-drawn legislative district lines, focusing on a state court that may be more favorable to them than the federal judiciary.Democratic groups and the state branch of Common Cause filed suit just days after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, challenging the validity of legislative lines established by the GOP-led General Assembly. The suit claims Republicans improperly considered voters’ partisan affiliations when drawing the lines.The case will be heard by a three-judge panel, but it is almost certain to be appealed to the North Carolina Supreme Court, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 5-to-2 margin.Democrats supporting the suit said they hoped to replicate a legal victory they scored this year in Pennsylvania, where the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Democrats and redrew congressional district lines.Under the old lines, Republicans held 13 of Pennsylvania’s 18 U.S. House seats. In the new version, each party won nine seats during the midterms.“The strategic pivot on litigation on redistricting is to really hone in on state law, like was done in Pennsylvania, because the Supreme Court is not, I think, friendly territory,” said Kelly Ward, who runs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NRDC), one of the groups suing over North Carolina’s district lines.The NDRC, headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to the North Carolina Democratic Party in advance of this year’s midterms.The suit in North Carolina does not challenge congressional district lines; another challenge to those lines is already before the U.S. Supreme Court.But in challenging state legislative district lines, Democrats hope they can get a new map that would help them win back enough seats to reclaim a majority in at least one legislative chamber in Raleigh, enough to earn a seat at the table during the decennial redistricting process.
While it remains to be seen who will step up to the plate to challenge Tillis, it’s clear North Carolina will become more competitive for Team Blue in 2020. It will allow us to have a great shot at flipping another U.S. Senate seat. In the mean time, let’s keep up the pressure on the U.S. Senate to reject Farr’s nomination. Received this e-mail from CREDO Action:
Thomas Farr became an expert in suppressing Black votes as the protege of notorious racist Sen. Jesse Helms and spent decades developing close ties to one of the most despicable white supremacist organizations in the United States.1
Now Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell want to give Farr a lifetime appointment as a federal judge.2
We cannot let the Senate confirm Farr without a fight. Every voice in opposition to putting a racist like Farr on the federal bench helps illuminate Republican leaders' open embrace of white nationalists and voter suppression.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays Movement and the Poor People's campaign, declared that Farr is unfit to be a federal judge because of his “long record as an advocate for hyper-partisan, segregationist causes.”3 In fact, nearly every civil rights organization has lined up to oppose Farr.
Farr's record shows a judge only Donald Trump could love. He:4
- Helped draft and defend a 2013 North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law that a federal court struck down because it targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision”
- Has close ties to the Pioneer Fund, a hate group “established to use science to pursue the goals of its founder: the preservation of white supremacy and white racial purity from the threat posed by blacks and undesirable immigrants, especially Jews,” which was one of the major funders of the fight in the South against the Civil Rights Movement
- Spent years working alongside Thomas Ellis, a strident segregationist and racist who built a political network to maintain white supremacy
- May have lied about his role in illegal voter suppression efforts while working on the campaigns of unrepentant racist Sen. Jesse Helms
- Continues to praise his mentor Helms, despite Helms' refusal to apologize for opposing civil rights and his fights to keep Black judges off of the federal courts
Racism. Voter suppression. Eugenics. It's all there in Thomas Farr's friends, clients and mentors. This man has no place on the federal bench.
Mitch McConnell is determined to ram through as many right-wing judges as possible before the end of the year. All 49 Democratic Senators oppose Farr and Sen. Jeff Flake has said he will refuse to vote for any judicial nominees until there is a Senate vote to protect the Mueller investigation. McConnell has to hold every other Republican vote to get Farr confirmed. We must raise our voices now to show Republicans we are paying attention and to demand they vote no on this racist judge.
Tell the Senate: Reject racist judge Thomas Farr. Click below to sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out,
Heidi Hess, Co-Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
- Alex Amend, “From eugenics to voter ID laws: Thomas Farr's connections to the Pioneer Fund,” The Southern Poverty Law Center, Dec. 4, 2017.
- Jordain Carney, “Senate barrels toward showdown over Trump's court picks,” The Hill, Nov. 18, 2018.
- Amend, “From eugenics to voter ID laws: Thomas Farr's connections to the Pioneer Fund.”