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Thomas Farr, Trump’s longest pending judicial nominee, moves one step closer to confirmation

November 28, 2018

President Trump’s longest pending judicial nominee overcame an attempted filibuster Wednesday, moving one step closer to being confirmed later this week.

Thomas Alvin Farr, who has been hanging in limbo for more than 500 days, was nominated to the Eastern District of North Carolina in July of 2017 and the seat he’s been tapped for is the longest vacancy of any federal court, dating back to the George W. Bush administration.

The North Carolina attorney was nominated for the same judgeship back in 2006 by President George W. Bush, but was never given a vote.

Wednesday’s vote was tied 50-50, with Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, voting against moving forward with Mr. Farr’s nomination, siding with all of the Democrats.

Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie in favor of the GOP, allowing Mr. Farr’s nomination to proceed. He’s expected to get confirmed later this week.

Mr. Flake was the only Republican to vote against Mr. Farr despite supporting the nominee in the Judiciary Committee.

The retiring Arizona senator vowed to oppose all of the president’s judicial nominees until the Senate votes on legislation to protect the ongoing special counsel probe into the 2016 election, Russian meddling and Trump campaign figures’ behavior.

More than 30 judicial nominees are awaiting confirmation votes before the full Senate, while the Judiciary Committee is set to consider 22 additional judicial nominees on Thursday.

Democrats objected to Mr. Farr’s past work, first as campaign lawyer for the late Sen. Jesse Helms and then as a lawyer representing North Carolina in major voting-rights cases, saying it disqualified him from sitting on the federal bench.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s 2013 voter ID law, which Mr. Farr had defended, saying the state legislature targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

And in 2010, Mr. Farr reportedly counseled members in the state assembly about racial gerrymandering.

Going back 28 years, the Helms campaign mailed more than 100,000 postcards to black voters in 1990, warning them not to show up to the polls. The mailer told them they were ineligible to vote and would be imprisoned if they tried to do so. Mr. Farr represented the Helms campaign when it was sued by the Justice Department; the case was settled in 1992.

Liberal activists say the seat Mr. Farr has been nominated for should have gone to a black judge.

Mr. Obama nominated two black women to the seat, but they were never confirmed because the Republican home-state senators refused to support them.

But Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, has defended the nominee, saying he hired an outside prosecutor to evaluate the allegations against Mr. Farr.

“He came back and said, ‘I’m completely convinced that the inference you would draw from comments from other people on the other side of the aisle are false. They are not supported by the facts and I believe you have somebody who is well qualified to be a district judge,’ ” Mr. Tillis said.

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