Statement by Senior Legislative Counsel Glenn Sugameli on Judge Pickering's Retirement Announcement

Pickering ignores his ethical violations and anti-environmentalism activism


Glenn Sugameli, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500, x221
Jared Saylor, Earthjustice (202) 667-4500, x238

“Yesterday’s retirement announcement by Judge Charles Pickering Sr. closes a controversial chapter of judicial nominations for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Unfortunately, instead of using the opportunity to gracefully celebrate his career, Judge Pickering issued a highly intemperate announcement that tries to divert attention from his ethical violations and anti-environmental judicial activism by falsely alleging that opposition to his nomination was based on his religious beliefs.”

“Judge Pickering’s unfounded charges are belied by the fact that more than 200 of President Bush’s judicial nominees were confirmed, the vast majority with little or no opposition. Is Judge Pickering saying that all of President Bush’s judicial nominees who were not opposed lack strong religious convictions?”

“The opposition by Earthjustice and other environmental groups to then-federal district Judge Pickering’s elevation to the appeals court was not based in any way upon the judge’s religious convictions, but rather was based on his documented record of anti-environmental judicial activism and his serious ethical problems. For example, in our October 1, 2003 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, we explained in detail that:

“Our opposition is based upon Judge Pickering’s judicial record and ethics. He repeatedly denied citizens access to justice in violation of controlling precedent; favored powerful interests at the expense of the rights of ordinary Americans and the environment; and breached legal standards to implement his personal agenda. Three preeminent judicial ethics experts have submitted letters to the Judiciary Committee that raise extraordinarily serious concerns about Judge Pickering’s abuse of his office, both in the case of United States v. Swan and in soliciting and reviewing supporter letters to the Committee on behalf of his nomination. Given his rulings in environmental cases coupled with these ethical improprieties, Judge Pickering is simply not an appropriate choice for the Fifth Circuit.”

“Judge Pickering’s retirement statement is absurd and deeply offensive. Indeed, I and my colleagues in the environmental community who are members of major religious denominations work to protect our air, water, children, wildlife and special places based upon our religious beliefs of our obligation to safeguard God’s creation.”

“It is a shame that Judge Pickering chose to make unfounded, outrageous charges, rather than actually addressing his ethical problems and his unjustifiable anti-environmental decisions. For example, Judge Pickering was reversed repeatedly by the Fifth Circuit for improperly dismissing claims filed by victims in toxic-tort cases concerning an EPA Superfund site. In addition, judicial ethics experts concluded that, as a U.S. District Judge, Charles Pickering violated ethical requirements in order to reduce the sentence of a man convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial couple, and by soliciting attorneys with cases pending before him to send him letters supporting his elevation to the appeals court.”

“The Fifth Circuit is an extremely important appellate court that is critical to the environmental protections that safeguard the people who live in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi — states that have some of the most challenging environmental problems in our nation. Judge Pickering’s history of denying citizens access to justice and favoring corporate polluters over environmental protections shows that his continued presence on that court would have dealt a devastating blow to the health and well-being of citizens and communities in those states.”

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