Reconsidering Tom Farr for the Federal Bench

Thomas Farr at his September 2017 Senate confirmation hearing. (via C-SPAN)

The racism allegations against this judicial candidate are  bogus.

Conservative activists are disappointed with Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.), normally an ally. They are puzzled by his opposition to North Carolina attorney Tom Farr for a federal judgeship, owing to claims of racial bias. Even worse, these rightists are frustrated that Scott, who is black, has not spoken with several people of color whom Farr asked him to contact. These friends of Farr shower him with praise and robustly reject these charges of bigotry.

Scott told Fox News Channel’s Shannon Bream last November that he would vote for Farr. But the next day, he changed his mind. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, he wrote, “we should stop bringing candidates with questionable track records on race before the full Senate for a vote.”

“Tom’s record of accomplishment is without blemish,” 31 constitutionalist legal scholars and policy experts wrote Scott in an open letter — among them former attorney general Ed Meese; Scott’s predecessor, former U.S. senator Jim DeMint (R., S.C.); and Tim Moore, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. “And you have damaged the reputation of someone who does not deserve to have his reputation tarnished with veiled assertions of ‘racism.’”

Scott responded by telling McClatchy News Service that he was concerned with “serious questions about the level of involvement Mr. Farr had in the [Jesse] Helms campaign” to reelect this North Carolina Republican to the U.S. Senate, decades ago.

After meeting with the senator, Farr wrote and reminded him that the Justice Department cleared Farr of sending postcards to blacks in what critics called a vote-suppression scheme. “The 1991 DOJ memo confirms that I was not a senior official or even involved in the 1990 Helms campaign until I was contacted to provide advice on the awful card that had already been mailed.” Farr explained that Justice

confirms my public testimony that when I found out about the completely awful card mailing and strategy to use returned cards to challenge voters on election day, I immediately stopped the 1990 ballot security program.

In 1990, the Helms committee had no observers in the field on election day and did not challenge voters with the thousands of returned cards they received solely because I stopped them from doing so.

Senator Scott has not specifically mentioned the DOJ memo’s claim that, in 1984, Farr was the “primary coordinator” of pro-Helms efforts that included “a postcard mailing to voters in predominantly black precincts which was designed to serve as a basis to challenge voters on election day.”

Farr’s critics rarely, if ever, attack his work for Helms’ 1984 campaign. In fact, Farr’s letter prompted Scott: “You have also received two emails from campaign leaders for the 1984 Helms campaign (Carter Wrenn and Tom Fetzer) proving that I was not a decision maker or senior official or involved in campaign decisions in 1984.”

Thirty-five years ago, Farr was a first-year associate at the law firm of Tom Ellis, Helms’s chief strategist. Farr’s supervisors assigned the then-30-year-old to the Helms account. The postcard on which Farr counseled did not steer blacks from the polls. Instead, it urged them to vote and to vote for Helms, at the behest of a black pastor who had endorsed the conservative GOP lawmaker. The postcards that were returned to sender could have been used to challenge voters who showed up at the polls despite such evidence that they had moved away. But Team Helms offered no such objections. Farr’s 1984 activities for Helms raise so few eyebrows largely because — as my old friend and fellow NRO contributing editor Quin Hillyer puts it — these postcards were “a) legal, b) moral, and c) uncontroversial.”

Farr’s letter to Scott continued: “I am not a racist, a Nazi, a segregationist, or the equivalent to Adolf Hitler, names I have been regularly called in the national media and my home town newspaper and local television station.”

Farr gave Scott phone numbers of four people who could confirm Farr’s decency and refute the Left’s racism accusations. All four told me that Scott never spoke with them.

When he heard the allegations against this nominee, Milton Cobb says, “my first thought was, ‘That is not the Tom Farr that I know.’” Cobb, a self-described “47-year-old black male,” says he has known Farr for eight years, including the four and a half years they worked together at Farr’s law firm, Ogletree Deakins, in Raleigh, N.C. “No one in that firm (including any of the other 40+ offices) treated me as well as Tom,” Cobb adds. “He spoke to me as if I was his equal, even though technically he was my boss.”

“We never once spoke about politics,” Cob recalls. “Our interactions were mostly sports related. . . . We even hung out at Tom’s favorite sports bar on a couple of occasions to watch NFL on Sundays. No one else in that firm invited me to do anything, much less hang out and watch sports. Even after I left the firm, Tom stayed in touch with me. He even invited me to his wedding and reception. I am glad Tom is my friend.” Cobb adds: “These allegations never wavered my thinking, and I’m a registered Democrat.”

Did Milton Cobb ever speak with Senator Scott? “No, I did not,” Cobb says. “Tom told me that I might be hearing from him for a comment, but I never heard from him.”

“I have known Tom Farr for approximately 30 years,” says William Arthur Webb, Esq., a distinguished black attorney and member of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1982 to 1986. “He is a good man, a friend, and an outstanding lawyer.”

“Those of us who know him found the characterization of him by partisan Democrats and their all-too-willing allies in the media inaccurate to the point of being grotesque,” Webb adds. “For me, a complete refutation of the suggestion that Tom is hostile to persons of color is that he chaired the committee which selected me as a United States magistrate judge.”

Webb says that he received a call from Senator Scott, which went to voicemail. He rang the number on his caller ID, and a Scott staffer answered. “I left a detailed message with my telephone number but never received a second call,” Webb says.

“I have known Mr. Farr for nearly 20 years, first professionally by seeing his referrals of forensic cases to my practice, later the relationship evolved/expanded socially and politically ( I am a conservative Republican),” says Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, ScD (Hon). The 84-year-old Iranian native is a patron of the arts, philanthropist, physician, and distinguished life fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. “I consider Tom a good friend whom I respect, love, and admire.”

“One of the first cases Tom referred to me was an African-American gentleman who worked in a factory in a small, very race-conscious eastern North Carolina town with a group of intolerant white co-workers,” Dr. Meymandi continues. “It was a very dangerous, chaotic, antagonistic, and hostile environment. I watched Tom — over the period of time I provided psychiatric treatment for his client — as a genuinely loving, compassionate, and caring man who went beyond the traditional lawyer-client relationship in helping this African-American gentleman. He provided excellent support for the patient and his family throughout the length of psychiatric/medical treatment I provided for the patient. Over the years, I have grown to admire and love him truly as a son. (Son number four!)”

Did Senator Scott contact Dr. Meymandi? “He did not,” Meymandi says. “I would ask Senator Scott to take the time to get to know Tom. I am sure the senator would enjoy the experience, and his life would be enriched by having Tom Farr as a friend.”

I asked a fourth associate of Farr’s, who is black, if Senator Scott ever contacted him. “He did not.”

My three requests for comment from Senator Scott’s press office yielded silence.

President Donald Trump should renominate Farr and give Senator Tim Scott a new reason to call these people. Such conversations might persuade him to rehabilitate Tom Farr’s baselessly trashed reputation by elevating him to a well-deserved seat on the federal bench.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online.

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