Two events this week—one immediate and one spanning decades—present links to the nomination of Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr to a federal judiciary seat in Eastern North Carolina.
In the newest development, Senator Cory Booker, D–New Jersey, and Senator Kamala Harris, D-California, were named members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, becoming the first African-American members of the powerful panel since the 1990s. The committee retains a GOP majority but adds two voices likely to be raised against Farr's nomination when it again comes before the group.
“The Congressional Black Caucus could not be more proud of both of our Senate members and know the experience and expertise they bring to the Committee will be beneficial for all Americans, especially those disproportionately targeted by the criminal justice system,” said U.S Representative Cedric L. Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus.
Federal judicial nominee Thomas Farr
Meanwhile, a federal district judge in New Jersey on Monday lifted restrictions on Republican "ballot security" measures that have been in place since 1982.
Questions of ballot security have also arisen following President Donald Trump's nomination of Farr. Opponents of Farr's taking the role have cited his involvement in former Senator Jesse Helms's senatorial campaigns of 1984 and 1990.
In a long court battle over whether the 1982 consent degree should remain in place, Democrats have cited the 1990 Helms campaign, with Farr as counsel, as evidence that the ban on certain kinds of ballot security measures should remain in place.
Based on federal court filings and contemporary accounts, both the 1984 and 1990 Helms campaigns made use of ballot security tactics in the form of postcards sent to thousands African-American voters, with a plan to use returned cards to challenge voters on Election Day in the 1984 campaign and potentially challenge voters during a recount in the 1990 campaign.
Judge John Michael Vazquez, named by President Barack Obama to a district court judgeship in 2015, found Monday that the Democratic National Committee had not proved that its Republican counterpart had violated the terms of the 1982 consent decree.
The degree of Farr's involvement in those campaigns has arisen during consideration of his nomination by the Senate Judiciary Committee and in written questions from Booker, who has also asked for an internal Department of Justice memo used as the basis for a 1992 complaint against the Helms campaign.
Federal judicial nominee Thomas Farr
, a former Department of Justice attorney, has told the INDY
that Farr was involved in the planning of both postcard mailings, while Farr says he never saw the cards sent out in the 1990 campaign until he was told of complaints about it by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Farr's nomination, his third for the post since 2006, received a favorable vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee in October but did not reach the Senate floor. The Senate returned the nomination to the White House late last year, requiring Trump to resend it for further consideration. It will likely face another vote, this one from a committee including Harris and Booker.
The terms of the decree regarding ballot security, put in place following 1981 elections in New Jersey, prevent campaigns from placing workers within restricted poll areas, interrogating voters, from conducting ballot security measures in districts that have significant racial and ethnic populations.
In a 2009 hearing, the New Jersey court had set a December 1, 2017, finishing date to the order, provided the DNC did not show violations in the interim. Vasquez recently heard evidence from both sides, including a transcript of a deposition by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
The judge found that the RNC had not committed new violations by allowing contact between its employees and those of the Trump campaign, who were taking calls from across the country on potential voter fraud on election night in 2016.
Spicer's under-oath testimony in the matter was recently unsealed.
"Mr. Spicer’s testimony indicates that the RNC and Trump campaign made little effort to separate the RNC employees who worked out of Trump Tower from the poll-monitoring operation that was being orchestrated from the fifth floor of Trump Tower," DNC attorney Angelo J. Genova said in a letter to Vasquez.