Latest posts by Joseph Morris (see all)
- John McGinnis in Law & Liberty on the State of Originalism’s Internal Debates - May 30, 2019
- Leftist Radicals to Blame for Decline of Small Colleges like UW-SP - January 16, 2019
- Defending Tom Farr from Baseless Smears - December 14, 2018
Six days ago, on December 7th, The Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor from U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) explaining Senator Scott’s decision to break ranks with all of his Republican colleagues (except for Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who has decided to vote against all further judicial confirmations in his waning lameduck days in the Senate) and to vote against the confirmation of Thomas A. Farr to be a United States District Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Without the votes of Senator Scott and Senator Flake, the Farr nomination would be defeated on a straight party-line vote; it wouldn’t even result in a tie that Vice President Pence, sitting in the chair, could break.
Senator Scott has succumbed to a disinformation campaign against Mr. Farr that attempts to paint him as a racist. The charges are entirely false and fabricated, but those who peddle the calumny are armed with a 54-page internal memorandum produced in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1991 in which Mr. Farr’s name is mentioned. That memorandum addressed allegations that the successful 1990 Senate re-election campaign of the late Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), who was re-elected again in 1996 and who retired in 2003, attempted to use unlawful means to turn African-American voters away from the polls. There is plenty in the memorandum that is inflammatory.
But the truth is that the memorandum exonerates Tom Farr.
To know that, however, one must actually read the document, and not just rely on Chuck Schumer’s prevaricative summary of it. Of the document’s 54 pages, Mr. Farr’s name appears on only four. Here are the material facts:
On p. 12 (buried in footnote 7) it states, “…Farr did not play an active role in the 1990 Helms campaign….” Rather, he was a lawyer, advising and representing clients. At p. 13 the memo shows clearly that Mr. Farr’s advice to his clients was aimed at avoiding election fraud — a proper purpose — and that he counseled them to rely on institutional safeguards that had not existed in prior years when campaigns might themselves have had to take anti-fraud measures. Finally, on the same page the memo reported that Mr. Farr’s advice to his clients was precisely not to proceed with the project that Justice eventually investigated. In short, the Justice Department memo shows that Mr. Farr did not engineer the supposedly racist stratagem; to the contrary, he advised against it.
You can read the memorandum for yourself, here.
Tom was and is a conservative and was a friend and supporter of, and a lawyer for, Jesse Helms. But Tom is not a bigot, and he is a lawyer who takes law seriously. When some Helms operatives dreamed up a goofy plan to try to prevent voters (thought, because they were African-American, to be hostile to Senator Helms), from voting, Tom Farr stood up and told them not to do it. They didn’t listen to him, it seems. That was not his fault.
Isn’t a lawyer who is conscientious and brave enough to tell his clients to their faces that what they contemplate is wrong precisely the kind of person whom we would want to have on the Federal bench?
Allegations of racism are among the most devastating charges that anyone in our society, let alone public figures, must answer. When those charges are false, and are manufactured purely for partisan political advantage, they are truly invidious.
In the case of Tom Farr they are utterly fabricated. I know this first-hand. I have known Mr. Farr for almost all his professional life. I was among his first bosses when, more than 35 years ago, as the General Counsel of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the agency that runs the federal civil service — I hired him away from the Senate’s staff to be one of my assistants. I saw him work with government colleagues of all races, ethnicities, religions, and sexes. I observed him handle cases involving people with characteristics of all kinds. He treated everyone with fairness, kindness, and professionalism, just as one would hope an able and honest public servant would do.
Mr. Farr is a learned, thoughtful, and even-tempered man. He has been an extremely accomplished and successful lawyer in public and private practice. The virtues of humility, loyalty, prudence, and recourse to reason over emotion come naturally to him, and always have. He has courageously done his duty in representing his clients — even controversial ones. His private life has been exemplary; when sad circumstances left him a single father, he dutifully, joyfully, and successfully reared his children on his own from small childhood to adulthood. By learning, ability, and temperament he would make a splendid judge, as the American Bar Association has recognized in twice giving him “highly-qualified” ratings.
What the Democrats and the left are doing in this instance is truly vicious, but it is highly calculated. Tom Farr’s life, his work, and his conduct in the very episode being used against him, are proofs that conservatism does not equate to racism or bigotry. Here is a high-profile conservative lawyer who really does advocate the protection of constitutional rights for everybody. That runs counter to leftist stereotypes and, from the point of view of the opposition, such a truth cannot be allowed to stand. By their lights Tom Farr must be smeared.
Senator Tim Scott is a conservative, a Republican, and an African-American. He ought to understand all this. He breaks the stereotypes, too, and the practitioners of identity politics have tried mightily to smear him over and over again. Senator Scott ought to be a champion, not an opponent, of Tom Farr’s nomination.
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal published my letter in reply to Senator Scott. You will find it linked here and set forth below.
I hope it helps persuade Senator Scott to reverse course and to vote to confirm Tom Farr. If you or anyone you know can credibly get that message to Senator Scott, now is the time to do it.
In his letter (Dec. 7) on the nomination of Thomas Farr to the federal bench, Sen. Tim Scott is right on principle but wrong on the facts regarding Mr. Farr.
The case against Mr. Farr begins and ends with a June 19, 1991 Justice Department memo about claims of racism in Jesse Helms’s 1990 Senate campaign. That’s the document that Mr. Farr’s partisan opponents insist shows he’s a bigot, scheming with the Helms campaign to suppress African-American votes.
But the memo actually exonerates him. It states, “Farr did not play an active role in the 1990 Helms campaign.” Rather, he was a lawyer, advising and representing clients. The memo shows clearly that Mr. Farr’s advice to his clients was aimed at avoiding election fraud—a proper purpose—and that he counseled them to rely on institutional safeguards.
The memo reported that Mr. Farr’s advice to his clients was precisely not to proceed with the project that Justice eventually investigated. In short, the Justice Department memo shows that Mr. Farr did not engineer the supposedly racist stratagem; to the contrary, he advised against it.
In the case of Tom Farr the charges are entirely fabricated. I know this firsthand. I have known Mr. Farr for almost all his professional life.
The fabrication of false charges against judicial nominees must not be rewarded. Sen. Scott urges us “not to seek to sow the seeds of discord, but rather embrace the power of unity.” If Sen. Scott truly wants to move our country in that direction, a vote in favor of the nomination of Tom Farr would be a good first step.
Joseph A. Morris