Regarding the April 29 news article “Burr vows to block federal court nomination”: When I heard that President Obama had nominated Patricia Timmons-Goodson to fill the long-vacant seat on the U.S. Eastern District of North Carolina federal district court, my heart rose. “Finally,” I thought.
After 10 years of waiting, the people of Eastern North Carolina would have a justice of whom we could all be proud. Moreover, I thought, “Good for North Carolina. Another glass ceiling broke. The first African-American woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court was now going to be the first African-American judge to serve the Eastern District of North Carolina.”
Of course, those feelings were short-lived. Shortly after the nomination was made, Sen. Richard Burr vowed to block it. My heart sank, not just for Timmons-Goodson but for our state. We are better than this. I know from personal experience.
In 1992 I became the first African-American to serve in Congress since the end of Reconstruction and the first African-American woman to serve our state in its history. My name was put on the ballot, and the people elected me.
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Timmons-Goodson’s name has also been on the ballot twice statewide, and twice the people of North Carolina chose her to be their Supreme Court justice. She earned people’s respect regardless of their political leaning and demonstrated both a reputation for fairness and dedication to justice. She served. She did her job, and she did it well.
The same cannot be said for Burr. It is his job to consider judicial nominees, yet almost immediately after Timmons-Goodson’s nomination was announced Burr said he would block it. No vote. No hearing. Not so much as a meeting.
Burr has justified his blocking of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee by saying the American people deserve to have a say so we must wait until after the 2016 presidential election. But in the case of Timmons-Goodson, the people of North Carolina did have their say – twice – and they chose her. And for good reason.
She is a tremendous justice with an impeccable record. The Eastern District had the opportunity to get a fair and impartial judge, and Burr had the opportunity to do the right thing. Instead, he let us down.
In my time representing North Carolina, I learned two important things: Don’t ever forget where you came from and never lose sight of the people you represent. Burr would have done well to remember those lessons before saying no to a judge the people of our state chose in two different elections.
The people will again get our say in November. We’ve had our say in electing Burr twice before. Too much is on the line to make that mistake a third time.
The writer is a former U.S. congresswoman representing the 1st District. The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.