RALEIGH — The U.S. Senate could vote next week on the appointment of Thomas Farr as judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) filed cloture Friday on President Donald Trump’s nomination of Farr for the federal bench. Farr, a former staff member of the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), was a lead lawyer defending the state in the fight over redistricting and is opposed by the NAACP and congressional Democrats.
“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 Congressional Black Caucus tweeted.
The NAACP hosted a press call on Tuesday to condemn Farr and discuss their plans to resist his nomination. The announcement for the call, led by North Carolina pastor William Barber, said, “Thomas Farr has fought against civil rights for decades, compiling a long record of hostility to voting rights and workers’ rights in particular.”
Much of the opposition to Farr is based on his role representing the Republican-led N.C. legislature in court as they fought to uphold a bill making multiple changes to elections in the state. The bill was struck down by a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, consisting of two Barack Obama appointees and one Bill Clinton appointee, who claimed it targeted African-American voters. Republicans deny this was the intent of measures like requiring photo ID to vote and eliminating Sunday voting.
Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting and vice-chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Elections, told North State Journal partisan smears are at the root of the opposition.
“Every fair person understands from the Kavanaugh circus that the Democrat/allied media’s adopted modus operandi for judicial nominees is to shriek lies about distinguished nominees — the more outrageous the better,” Bishop said, referring to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “‘Racist’ is, of course, their favorite. Tom Farr is wise, brilliant, scholarly, fair, gentle yet strong, and utterly committed to the rule of law. The Senate has shown the way to face down lies and should do so again, right away, confirming Tom Farr to the bench.”
Farr was nominated by then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007, but his nomination was never brought to a vote by the Senate. The seat has been vacant since 2005 and is currently the longest district court vacancy in the federal judiciary. The American Bar Association has rated Farr “unanimously well-qualified” for the nomination.
McConnell has also added a vote for Jonathan Kobes to be an 8th Circuit Court judge. The two are part of 35 judicial nominees that could go before the full Senate for a vote before Dec. 14 when the Senate expects to wrap up business for the year. Because votes to approve judicial nominations are solely handled in the Senate — which, unlike the House, the Republicans held onto in this year’s midterm elections — Republicans do not need to rush a vote before the next term begins.
Republicans and the Trump administration have made filling judicial vacancies a priority, setting a record for the number of appeals judges confirmed during the first two years of an administration. By September 2018, 26 Trump-nominated judges were confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.