A controversial judge appointed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals announced that he would step down from the bench when Congress adjourns. Charles Pickering was placed on the federal bench by President Bush in a recess appointment after Pickering’s nomination was stalled by a Democratic filibuster. With the urging of a broad coalition of women’s rights and civil rights groups, Democrats had blocked Pickering’s nomination from receiving a full vote in the US Senate due to his anti-women and anti-civil rights history.
As a recess appointee, Pickering’s term expires when Congress reconvenes next year. Rather than seek re-appointment, which would entail going through the confirmation process in the Senate again, Pickering chose to retire. Bush also installed William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a recess appointment, which expires in the fall of 2005.
As a state Senator, Pickering supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion and chaired the subcommittee of the National Republican Party that in 1976 approved a plank calling for an amendment to the US Constitution to make abortion illegal. Pickering has opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and as a district court judge, criticized remedies provided by the Voting Rights Act to redress discrimination against African-American voters. Also as a federal district judge, Pickering attempted to intercede in a case to reduce the sentence of a convicted cross burner.