Commentary

National fair courts group: Trump nominee for NC federal vacancy should be rejected

The good government watchdogs at the nonpartisan Alliance for Justice are out with a damning assessment of President Trump’s nominee for the long vacant federal District Court seat in North Carolina’s Eastern District. The 13 page report offers a detailed and disturbing look at the career of Thomas Farr and his far right views. As the report puts it, Farr has “built his career on disenfranchising voters of color and stripping workers’ protections.” This is from a statement issued by AFJ President Nan Aron that accompanied the report:

“Thomas Farr has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to two main missions: disenfranchising people of color and attacking workers’ rights. Farr represented North Carolina in its attempt to make it more difficult for African-Americans to vote.  He supported efforts to prevent North Carolinians from bringing any job discrimination claims based on race, religion, national origin, age, sex, or disability in state courts. There are many excellent Republican lawyers in North Carolina whom Donald Trump could have nominated for this seat.  There is no reason for him to have chosen one with one of the worst records on voting rights and discrimination in the state’s recent history.”

Among other findings, the AFJ report notes:

  • Farr, who would as a judge have to rule in Title VII cases, has championed weakening or even eliminating legal protections for employment discrimination. He said it was “better policy for the state” when the North Carolina Legislature eliminated the right of workers to bring any employment discrimination lawsuit in state court.
  • Farr represented North Carolina in an effort to enact one of the harshest and most discriminatory election laws in the country. Immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the North Carolina state Legislature drafted a law which eliminated several voting practices disproportionately used by voters of color and implemented a strict voter photo ID requirement. The Fourth Circuit struck down the law, stating that it targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
  • The Justice Department issued a complaint in 1992 alleging that during Farr’s tenure as a lawyer for the Jesse Helms campaign, the campaign sent postcards to over 100,000 North Carolinians, the vast majority of whom were black voters, suggesting they were ineligible to vote and warning that if they went to the polls, they could be prosecuted for voter fraud. Farr defended the campaign in its response to the Justice Department.
  • Farr spent years working to undermine the rights of employees claiming unlawful and discriminatory employment practices. Farr defended a company when a supervisor said that “women with children should be at home and not employed in the workplace,” that he would go to an employee’s hotel room to “help [her] pick [her] panties off the floor,” and that female employees were “stupid, retarded, and awful.” Farr defended another company when a woman was denied a position because the job “was too hard and too rough for a woman.”
  • Farr also has fought vigorously against workers’ efforts to unionize. He was a staff attorney at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has deep ties to the Koch brothers and was described by The Center for Media and Democracy as “a national leader in the effort to destroy public and private sector unions.” Later, in private practice, he filed an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit challenging California’s State Employer-Employee Relations Act, which provided for collective bargaining for state employees.

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