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Barber, Butterfield blast Trump nomination of N.C. GOP Attorney

By Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Contributor / July 21, 2017

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Rev. Dr. William Barber

Rev. Dr. William Barber

Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, is alarmed that Pres. Trump is nominating a prominent Republican attorney to the federal bench for the Eastern District who fought to uphold North Carolina’s racial gerrymandered redistricting maps and 2013 voter suppression laws.

According to a federal appellate court last year, those laws targeted African American voters with almost “…surgical precision,” while the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled the maps to be “unconstitutional.”

Attorney Thomas Farr, best known for representing Republican legislative leaders in court is up for the lifetime seat, and Rev. Barber called that “dangerous.”

“Farr has been the lead attorney on racist voter suppression,” Rev. Barber said in an interview Tuesday. “He’s wasted millions of North Carolinian’s dollars (defending against N.C. NAACP lawsuits).

The civil rights leader vowed to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify against Farr’s confirmation.

Farr is a labor and constitutional law litigator with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak and Stewart law firm in Raleigh.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-12-NC) also made it clear in a statement last week that he opposes the Farr nomination.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-12-NC)

Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-12-NC)

“I’m disappointed that President Trump nominated a lawyer who has been at the forefront of defending the North Carolina Republican legislature as it has repeatedly engaged in political gerrymandering of state legislative and congressional district boundaries, and has passed regressive voting laws that had the intended effect of diluting the voting rights of minority groups,” Rep. Butterfield said in a statement.

“The counties in the Eastern District have a substantial African American population (27 percent), but the court does not reflect that diversity. The Court should include African American judges and this appointment simply maintains the status quo in a district with a large population of African American citizens.

“President Obama attempted to integrate this court by nominating two African American females for this position (federal prosecutor Jennifer May-Parker and former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson), but their nominations were blocked by a Republican Senator (Richard Burr).

Butterfield concluded, “I urge the United States Senate to carefully scrutinize the record of Thomas Farr and determine if he can impartially serve as a judge in cases involving voting and civil rights.”

The judicial seat in question has been open for the past eleven years. The Eastern District covers 44 counties in North Carolina, from Raleigh in Wake County, to the coast. The seat has been vacant since 2005 – the longest federal judicial vacancy in the nation.

“There has never been an African American to sit on that court,” Rev. Barber says.” It looks like the civil rights movement never happened.”

Farr has the backing of both Republican U.S. senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Both, who say that Farr is “well qualified,” are expected to push hard for Farr’s confirmation in the U.S. Senate.

Farr has been down this road before, having been nominated by Pres. George W. Bush in 2006 and 2007, but the Senate Judiciary Committee never took up his nomination.

Farr has defended both the Republican-led N.C. legislature’s 2011 redistricting maps, and voter ID restrictions, both later thrown out by the federal courts.

Attorney Irving Joyner, chair of the N.C. NAACP Legal Redress Committee, said of Trump’s nomination of Farr, “A pure simple case of stacking the judicial deck against voting rights and political participation by African Americans and other racial minorities.”

“Stacking” the federal judiciary with Republican judges is just one way critics like Joyner say Pres. Trump is attempting to prepare to win re-election in 2020. Others also see the president’s controversial “Election Integrity Commission” as another attempt to control the voting in 2020 in as many states as possible to his liking.

However, at least 45 states have balked at the commission’s request for personal information about voters registered to vote, fearing that information will be misused by the Trump Administration. A series of complaints and lawsuits have forced the commission to stop its data collection.

Farr is expected to be heading up the legal team representing Republican legislative leaders on Thursday, July 27 when a federal three-judge panel for the U.S. Middle District reconvenes to hear arguments about when legislative voting districts will be redrawn, and when (if possible) special elections could be held this year before November, based on those maps.




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Since 1967, the Carolina Peacemaker has served as North Carolina’s leading news weekly with a national reputation. Founded by Dr. John Kilimanjaro, the newspaper is published by Carolina Newspaper, Inc.

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