The nomination of Thomas Farr, a controversial judicial pick up for an Eastern District of North Carolina seat, appeared dead Thursday evening after Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, announced he would not support the nominee.
In a statement first reported by a South Carolina newspaper, Scott said his opposition came after he spent time reviewing a 1991 Justice Department memo that included details of Farr’s past work on the campaigns of former Sen. Jesse Helms in North Carolina.
The memo, reported by the Washington Post, described Farr as “the primary coordinator” of an effort that included sending postcards to voters in mostly black precincts. It said the mailing was “designed to serve as a basis to challenge voters on election day.”
The White House did not return a request for comment Thursday. Farr—currently a Raleigh, North Carolina-based shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart—also did not respond to a request for comment.
Scott’s opposition comes a day after Farr’s nomination advanced to a Senate floor vote. Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 tie on cloture Wednesday, which cleared the way for a floor vote. Scott had voted to advance Farr’s nomination.
All 49 Senate Democrats voted against cloture. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, had previously announced he would vote against Farr’s bid, in part holding out his vote until legislation meant to bolster special counsel Robert Mueller’s job security received a vote.
If the White House withdraws Farr’s bid, it will be the second time Scott’s opposition has felled a judicial nomination. Ryan Bounds’ nomination to the Ninth Circuit was pulled after Scott, the lone black Republican in the Senate, came out against his bid.
That came after Bounds’ writings as an undergraduate student, including a column railing against “race-focused groups” on college campuses, surfaced.
Farr, whom President Donald Trump nominated in July 2017, has faced a firestorm of controversy throughout his nomination, largely revolving around his past defense of voting restrictions. The Congressional Black Caucus last year described Farr as “the preeminent attorney for North Carolina Republicans seeking to curtail the voting rights of people of color.”
Civil rights and progressive legal groups have opposed him over what they describe as a record of hostility to voting rights. Critics have cited, for example, his defense of a 2013 North Carolina voter identification law in addition to his work for Helms. A Fourth Circuit panel struck down the identification law, finding it targeted black voters with “almost surgical precision.” The Supreme Court did not take up Farr’s appeal.
“It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sought to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers’ rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so,” members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote in their letter to the U.S. Senate last year, opposing his nomination.
“We believe that Mr. Farr’s record raises serious questions regarding his commitment to equal justice under the law that disqualifies him from service on the federal bench,” they said.
The district court seat to which Farr has been nominated has been vacant since 2005, making it the country’s longest federal judicial vacancy.
President George W. Bush had nominated Farr to the seat during his tenure, but Farr’s nomination failed to advance under the then-Democratic majority in the Senate.