Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Trump nominee Farr could be confirmed to Eastern District judgeship by end of year

Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr could be confirmed by the end of the year to the federal bench in Eastern North Carolina

Prominent GOP attorney Thomas Farr could be confirmed to a lifetime federal judge seat in Eastern North Carolina by the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture Thursday on Farr’s and Jonathan Kobes’ judicial nominations.

The U.S. District Court judgeship for the Eastern District of North Carolina has been vacant for nearly 13 years and has long been referred to as a judicial emergency.

Farr’s nomination has been deeply opposed by voting rights activists and organizations and legal stakeholders across the country. The debate about his fitness for the job has been ongoing, and cloture is a process by which McConnell seeks to end that debate and take a vote.

The NAACP strongly condemns Farr’s nomination and the Senate’s scheduling of his vote.

“The nation just experienced national elections which are not yet over and which were tainted by egregious voting rights violations,” a news release from the organization states. “That Majority Leader McConnell chooses this moment in time to vote on a judicial nominee known as the vote-suppressor-in-chief is not lost on anyone. It is a slap in the face to communities of color everywhere.”

Farr, the release states, poses a serious threat to civil rights, especially since he would preside over a jurisdiction with a large African-American population.

A Raleigh based attorney, Farr frequently represents the state’s Republican party in voting rights cases. He has been lead counsel for the GOP in redistricting cases and in the voter identification law challenge.

He was nominated by President Donald Trump last year and again this year, and if he’s not confirmed by the end of the year, he could be nominated again.

“Even among dangerous Trump nominees, Farr stands out for his decades-long crusade to disenfranchise African Americans,” the NAACP wrote. “He learned how to intimidate Black voters from segregationist Senator Jesse Helms and helped turn North Carolina into ground zero for voter suppression tactics. His nomination is a travesty. His confirmation would be heresy.”

The Eastern District of North Carolina serves 44 counties and has a combined Black population of nearly 30 percent. A black judge has never been appointed to serve on the bench, despite Obama’s nominations of Jennifer May-Parker and Patricia Timmons-Goodson — two very accomplished Black women. N.C. Sen. Richard Burr blocked both nominations.

Sen. Thom Tillis serves on the Judiciary Committee

He backs Farr, though. As does fellow N.C. Sen. Thom Tillis, who told the News and Observer that he looks forward to the floor vote.

“We urge each and every Senator to reject this judicial throwback to white supremacy and segregation,” the NAACP news release states. “The people of North Carolina and our entire country deserve better than this.”

People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker said Thursday that if McConnell and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) were looking to “illustrate their reckless and irresponsible approach to rubber stamping Trump’s dangerous judicial nominations, they couldn’t do much better” than Farr and Kobes.

Baker described both nominees as grossly unqualified for lifetime seats on the federal bench.

“Thomas Farr has been the go-to litigator for attacks on the right to vote in North Carolina,” she said in an emailed statement. “He defended the state’s aggressive campaign to disenfranchise voters in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision, its gerrymandered districts, and its efforts to throw up obstacles for eligible voters trying to register. A federal judge reviewing one law Farr defended noted that it targeted African American voters ‘with almost surgical precision.’ He also rushed to defend the state’s so-called bathroom law targeting transgender people.”

She also said a majority of the American Bar Association’s standing committee on judicial selection found Kobes to be “unqualified” for a seat on the federal bench given his paltry record.

“But he has political connections, which is all Senator Grassley needed to whisk him through the committee — again on a party line vote,” Baker wrote. “For Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, cronyism trumps responsibility every time.

She added that they may have the votes to confirm Farr and Kobes, but they can’t hide their record of “good-old-boy politics and contempt for the rights of people of color.”


  1. Fred Hutchings

    November 16, 2018 at 9:00 am

    We are writing to you to report a cane of voter suppression. Voter suppression is a strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. Voter suppression attempts to reduce the number of voters who might vote against a candidate or proposition. The tactics of voter suppression range from minor changes to make voting less convenient, to physically intimidating prospective voters, which is illegal. Most of these voter suppression tactics were made illegal after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
    This is voter suppression because it is designed to influence the outcome of an election. It is designed to prevent specific groups of people from voting. Voter intimidation is prohibited under federal law, which states that “no person. shall intimidate, threaten, coerce. any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of [that] person to vote or to vote as he may choose.” Anyone trying to keep a person from voting or to get them to vote a certain way constitutes voter intimidation, according to Election Protection, a nonpartisan voting rights coalition. Also, the city has shown deliberate indifference, a deliberate overlooking and failure to address the facts.
    Dodge City, Kan., became infamous this fall for placing its only polling location a mile away from the nearest bus stop. Although a Latino group and Lyft are pitching in to drive people to the polls this single location will suppress voting. It’s part of a trend in closing polling sites. As recently as 2002, Dodge City had multiple polling stations, according the ACLU.
    We are writing to you because of all the trouble we are having communicating our grievances with the City of Fitchburg, MA We wrote to them and we hear nothing. We wrote to the Sentinel and Enterprise, letter to the editor, and we hear nothing. I do not know to whom to tell to tell the people of Fitchburg, MA.
    We are residents of Ward 5 in the City of Fitchburg, MA. This is to complain about the Ward 5 move to Saima Park. For many of us without cars, it is very hard to get there. We believe that everyone should have the right to vote. Making the polling place so far away effectively takes that right away. Because of this distance, hundreds will not be able to vote. Just after this move happened, Ward 5 had the lowest turnout in its history. Many disabled, elderly and people without cars are not able to reach the new polling place. It is hard to believe that the City of Fitchburg, MA. with all of the resources at its disposal, cannot find a closer polling place.
    True, at the last election, the city sent out one shuttle bus. This was never advertised. So, it was used by no one. Because no one used it, it was discontinued. It makes more sense to have a central location than to send out a fleet of busses.
    We believe that the decision to move was made by people who cannot relate to others in this situation. This situation should be fixed. The polling place should be moved closer to down town. Perhaps the university, with its vast tax paid resources, could find space for its citizens to vote. If a politician wants to speak, space is found.
    After we wrote the letter to the Fitchburg City Council, we have found out that the city pays $800 per day to rent Saima Park. This is outrageous. At a time when there are empty store fronts up and down main street, you could rent one at that price for a month.
    This does not include the shuttle bus. You pay $800 to get a polling place in the middle of the woods, then you pay a lot more to get people to it.


    Lisa Parsons Fred Hutchings
    81 Snow St. 27 Congress St.
    Fitchburg, MA 01420 Fitchburg, MA 01420
    978-847-7603 978-696-5965
    [email protected] [email protected]

  2. Melissa Pierson

    November 17, 2018 at 11:36 am

    The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was eliminated in 2013 by the Supreme Court.
    “Frye and hundreds of other new black legislators built on the promise of the Voting Rights Act, not just easing access to the ballot but finding ways to actively encourage voting, with new state laws allowing people to register at the Department of Motor Vehicles and public-assistance offices; to register and vote on the same day; to have ballots count even when filed in the wrong precinct; to vote by mail; and, perhaps most significant, to vote weeks before Election Day. All of those advances were protected by the Voting Rights Act, and they helped black registration increase steadily. In 2008, for the first time, black turnout was nearly equal to white turnout, and Barack Obama was elected the nation’s first black president.”

    “In 2010, Republicans flipped control of 11 state legislatures and, raising the specter of voter fraud, began undoing much of the work of Frye and subsequent generations of state legislators. They rolled back early voting, eliminated same-day registration, disqualified ballots filed outside home precincts and created new demands for photo ID at polling places. In 2013, the Supreme Court, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, directly countermanded the Section 5 authority of the Justice Department to dispute any of these changes in the states Section 5 covered. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, declared that the Voting Rights Act had done its job, and it was time to move on. Republican state legislators proceeded with a new round of even more restrictive voting laws.”

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