Trump’s newest judicial pick is almost hilariously unfit for his job – but you’ll be laughing as you lose your voting rights.
Other than being gifted with graft and incompetence, President Trump’s political appointees have hewn to one ludicrous pattern: being the exact opposite person who should be in the job.
Scott Pruitt – sued the EPA 14 times, loves fossil fuels: EPA chief. Betsy DeVos, bane of public schools: Department of Education. Mick “the CFPB is a sick, sad, joke” Mulvaney: CFPB head. The list goes on.
But no pick may be as spectacularly unfit for his ordained job as Thomas Farr, whom Trump has picked as a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Like many Trump judicial picks, Farr is an under – qualified partisan hack with ties to white supremacists (he cut his teeth working for arch-segregationist Jesse Helms). But it’s Farr’s twisted role in the battles over voting rights in North Carolina that make his nomination to this court in particular an almost laughable irony – if it weren’t so horrific.
As a lawyer-for-hire for the Republican-dominated State legislature, Farr has made it his literal jobto suppress the votes of African American citizens in North Carolina. Perhaps no man in the state – nay, the country – has worked harder to legally justify voter suppression (All due respect to Brian Kemp and Kris Kobach, of course).
While the ink was still fresh on 2013’s Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights act and gave Southern states the green light to suppress the black vote, North Carolina leapt at the chance to pass voting restrictions. They hired Thomas Farr to help write them.
Farr went above and beyond the call of duty, delivering a law the NAACP has called “Monster Suppression” – a mammoth voting restriction bill that brought about the most suppressive and racist voting system since Jim Crow. He also provided advice as the Legislature drew their famously gerrymandered districts in 2011.
With the Legislature and Governorship clogged with Republicans, North Carolina’s federal courts have been the only institution to stand in the way of this racist power grab.
In 2016, a federal court’s ruling on Farr’s “monster” law blasted it as the constitutional abomination it was, in particular for “target[ing] African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Another ruling, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2017, found Farr’s gerrymandered maps some of the most egregious in constitutional history.
Throughout all of this, guess who the Legislature chose to defend these horrible laws in court?
You got it – Thomas Farr!
Yes, North Carolina Republicans hired Farr to defend the dubious laws he helped write, which he did with gusto, taking both battles all the way to the Supreme Court (at the least, you’ve got to give him credit for keeping his legal practice in business).
So, in short, Trump’s newest addition to the last institution standing in the way of racist voter suppression – is the same man who’s spent nearly 10 years defending racist voter suppression. (What fun! At least he’ll know all of his new coworkers!)
The Eastern District of North Carolina is roughly contiguous with the state’s “black belt,” its largest concentration of African Americans. Does appointing a man who once tried to scam over 100,000 black voters into thinking they weren’t registered to vote to preside over it seem questionable to anyone? (Susan Collins? Ben Sasse? Bueller?)
Granted, you’re not going to agree with every judge the president nominates. But how often do you see a man who might become a lifetime custodian of constitutional rights described as “moral poison” by the NAACP? “Vote-suppressor-in-chief?” “No man more hostile to the voting rights of minorities?”
Even the most rabid constitutional originalist will tell you that a role of the judiciary is to protect our constitutional rights, and you’d think the right to vote is near the top of the list. But with the Supreme Court increasingly abdicating that job, North Carolina’s federal courts have been the last bulwark in Republicans’ war against black voters.
You never know exactly how a judge will rule once appointed. But Farr’s spent years refining the legal justification for these resurrected Jim Crow voting laws. It’s pretty clear where he stands. If he gets to move from the plaintiff’s table to the bench, he’ll be able to cement his racist ideas into the hard stone of judicial precedent.
Confirming Farr to the Eastern District would be worse than letting the fox in the henhouse. It’d be giving the fox the power to decide when, where, and how he gets to eat all of the hens – and the chance to offer binding legal justification for it.
Farr’s nomination reads like a sick joke from a President who’s proved himself a grade-A troll. But nothing less than the right to vote is at stake, and nobody should be laughing.
Farr’s approval is on tenterhooks in the Senate. Call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and demand they keep this constitutional dumpster fire of a man out of the federal judiciary.