- Civil rights leaders are calling on the Senate to reject Thomas Farr, President Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal court in North Carolina.
- William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, called Farr “a product of the modern white supremacist machine.”
- Farr is the latest in a string of federal judicial nominees who progressives, and some Republicans, have argued are unfit to serve.
Civil rights leaders are calling on the Senate to reject President Donald Trump’s nominee to a federal court in North Carolina, arguing that Thomas Farr has long worked to promote racist policies and is “a product of the modern white supremacist machine.”
Farr, Trump’s pick for the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, began his career as counsel to former US Sen. Jesse Helms, a supporter of racial segregation who represented North Carolina for 30 years.
Over the last decade, Farr and his law firm colleagues have defended voting restrictions and identification laws that courts have struck down as deliberately discriminatory. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found in 2016 that North Carolina’s voter restriction laws targeted black communities “with almost surgical precision.”
Black civil rights leaders and progressive groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus, are calling on the Senate to reject Farr. In October, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved him in a party-line vote, and Farr is now up for confirmation by the full Senate.
Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP, wrote in a Tuesday New York Times op-ed that Farr, who he called the most “alarming” of all of Trump’s judicial nominees, would pose a direct threat to North Carolina’s black communities.
“African-Americans seeking to have their rights protected under federal law have much to fear if Mr. Farr takes the bench,” he wrote.
He went on, “Senators from both sides of the aisle must condemn the experience Mr. Farr brings with him. Having practiced white supremacy for decades, Mr. Farr is not likely to withdraw. Every senator who condemned the racism on display in Charlottesville must vote to prevent it from having power in the federal judiciary.”
Barber noted that about half of North Carolina’s black residents live in the area presided over by the Eastern District. And despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to seat two black female nominees on that court, the Eastern District has never had a black judge.
Both of North Carolina’s GOP senators, meanwhile, strongly support Farr’s nomination.
‘A grave disservice’
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus tore into Farr’s record in a September letter to the Judicial Committee, pointing to his work on Helms’ 1990 Senate campaign, during which postcards were mailed to 100,000 black voters wrongly suggesting they were ineligible to vote and warning they could be arrested and prosecuted for fraud if they tried.
“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 Caucus members wrote.
Farr told the Senate during his September hearing that he only learned of the postcards after they were sent and that he was “appalled” by the strategy. But a former Department of Justice official who investigated the incident has directly contradicted Farr’s claim, arguing that he was “certainly involved in the scheme as it was being developed.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has accused Farr of lying to the Senate and called on him to withdraw his nomination. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund is calling on the Senate Judiciary Committee to bring Farr back in for more questioning.
“Farr appears to have explicitly misled the Senate about his role in a scheme to intimidate Black North Carolinians and stop them from voting in the 1990 midterm elections,” the Legal Defense Fund wrote last month, arguing that Farr is neither sufficiently qualified nor competent to serve on the federal judiciary.
This comes after the American Bar Association determined that four of Trump’s judicial nominees are “not qualified” to serve on the federal bench. Those listed unqualified by the ABA did not include one nominee, Matthew Petersen, who withdrew himself from consideration earlier this month after a video clip of him struggling to prove basic knowledge of legal procedure went viral.
Petersen’s withdrawal was the third by a Trump judicial nominee in 10 days.
Trump, who is filling federal judicial vacancies at a rapid rate, and other GOP leaders have accused the ABA of having a liberal bias.