President George W. Bush nominated Leslie H. Southwick in 2007
to the federal appeals court, Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans.
Initially, Southwick seemed a consensus nominee. Just days before
his hearing, though, a progressive advocacy group distributed the
results of research it had conducted on opinions of the state court
on which he had served for twelve years. Two opinions Southwick had
signed off on but not written became the center of the debate over
the next five months. One dealt with a racial slur by a state
worker, the other with a child custody battle between a father and
a bisexual mother. Apparent bipartisan agreement for a quick
confirmation turned into a long set of battles in the Judiciary
Committee, on the floor of the Senate, and in the media.
In early August, Senator Dianne Feinstein completely surprised
her committee colleagues by supporting Southwick. Hers was the one
Democratic vote needed to move the nomination to the full Senate.
Then in late October, by a two-vote margin, he received the votes
needed to end a filibuster. Confirmation followed.
Southwick recounts the four years he spent at the Department of
Justice, the twelve years on a state court, and his military
service in Iraq while deployed with a Mississippi National Guard
Brigade. During the nomination inferno Southwick maintained a diary
of the many events, the conversations and emails, the joys and
despairs, and quite often, the prayers and sense of peace his faith
gave him--his memoir bears significant spiritual content.
Throughout the struggle, Southwick learned that perspective and
growth are important to all of us when making decisions, and he
grew to accept his critics, regardless of outcome. In The
Nominee there is no rancor, and instead the book expresses the
understanding that the difficult road to success was the most
helpful one for him, both as a man and as a judge.
Subjects: History, Law
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