Senate Democrats have been indignantly sounding the alarm that President Trump represents a threat to the independence of the judicial branch. They are apparently unaware that the real threat to our judiciary – the flagrant politicization of our courts and the confirmation process itself – has been facing them in the mirror this entire time.
Case in point: the treatment of Tom Farr, who President Trump nominated last year to serve on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Since the moment Mr. Farr was nominated, he has been the subject of a coordinated and viciously dishonest smear campaign from the far-left designed to tank his confirmation. The opposition is rooted in both ideological objections to the clients Mr. Farr has defended, as well as the political posturing of politicians on the left.
It’s important to note that this smear campaign has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Farr’s actual qualifications. He has tried cases in federal and state courts in North Carolina and has handled appeals at all levels of the North Carolina appellate courts, the Fourth and Sixth Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. He is highly regarded and deeply respected by his professional colleagues in North Carolina from across the political spectrum. He is rated as “unanimously well-qualified” by the American Bar Association.
Ignoring Mr. Farr’s impressive qualifications, the far-left objects to his role providing legal counsel to Republicans in North Carolina on both voter ID and redistricting cases. This is a break from the bipartisan tradition that we do not hold lawyers accountable for the clients they represent and any animus one may harbor against them.
The far-left has taken this one step further by waging a despicable effort to damage Mr. Farr’s reputation and falsely impugn his character.
It began with allegations made by Gerald Hebert, a former Department of Justice official, that Mr. Farr had misled the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing last September when he denied he had prior knowledge about a racially-charged postcard that Jesse Helms’ 1990 Senate campaign sent to African-American voters.
Mr. Hebert, who is now a professional partisan who works for a liberal think tank, has failed to provide a single piece of evidence to support his allegation that Mr. Farr was aware of the postcard or actively participated in its creation. In fact, Mr. Farr has made it clear that not only did he have nothing to do with the postcard, but that he found it to be morally reprehensible and would have advised the Helms campaign to never send it to voters in the first place.
The twist of irony is that it is Mr. Hebert – not Mr. Farr – who has misled the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath. In 1986, Mr. Hebert falsely testified that then United States Attorney Jeff Sessions stopped a Federal Bureau of Investigation into suppression of black voter registration in Conecuh County, Ala. Mr. Hebert subsequently had to recant his false testimony and apologize.
Despite Mr. Hebert’s lack of credibility, the far-left has jumped on the bandwagon to score political points. They’ve been clamoring for Mr. Farr to come back before the Committee, pressuring Democratic members to request one or at the very least vocalize their opposition to Mr. Farr.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Mr. Farr last month, posing a line of questioning based on the acceptance of Mr. Hebert’s false assertions. Mr. Farr sent back a detailed response that painstakingly addressed all concerns raised by Sen. Booker, laying out a clear and passionate rejection of any insinuation that he knew about the postcard.
While the facts should have prevailed and the matter should have been settled weeks ago, getting to the facts isn’t the goal of the far-left. Instead, their goal remains delaying Mr. Farr’s nomination and throwing everything against the wall, hoping something will stick.
It is disappointing that some of my Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee appear willing to use pandering to the left as a stepping stone for their own political ambitions without any regard given to the reputational harm their posturing will cause to an exceptional attorney and an honorable person.
Turning the judicial confirmation process into a testing ground for presidential campaigns is a dangerous precedent. So is attacking the character of a lawyer and attempting to derail their confirmation simply because they represented clients you disagree with politically.
I have been a member of the Judiciary Committee since my first year in the Senate under both Republican and Democratic administrations. I supported both President Obama and Trump’s nominees as long as they are qualified. In fact, I deferred to Sen. Booker and supported all the nominees he recommended to the White House during the previous administration.
Mr. Farr is eminently qualified and he also deserves to be a federal judge. I look forward to getting him confirmed.
Tillis is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Read the op-ed here.