Ronnie White was confirmed for a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri this past Wednesday by a 53/44 mostly partisan vote. The confirmation comes about 15 years after the same nomination was rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate in 1999. During that Hearing, Senator Claire McCaskill’s (Democrat-Missouri) support of President Bill Clintons’ nomination of White was defeated largely through the efforts of John Ashcroft’s negative attacks where he claimed White was too soft on crime- especially where drugs and the death penalty were concerned. At the time, Ashcroft was himself hunkered-down in a close and bitter Senate campaign, and in Missouri, the death penalty is popular among voters (Ashcroft would eventually lose and hook his wagon to the Bush Administration). Specifically, Ashcroft felt that White was wrong for not rubber-stamping prosecutorial calls for the death penalty; White preferred a reasoned and careful review of such matters. Missouri Right-to-Life advocates promptly criticized the nomination still clinging to their resentments over judicial opinions issued by White while on the Missouri Supreme Court about abortion and while he served In the Missouri House of Representatives. Concerning the recent confirmation, McCaskill remarked, “It is not often that the Senate has a chance to go back and fix a grievous error in our history.” White has often maintained that judges should be influenced by their life experiences. This philosophy has angered some conservatives, but they have never really clearly articulated why. This position is at odds with traditional notions of judicial precedent- mainly where juries are concerned; all jurors are reminded to apply common sense developed through life-experiences when they weigh the evidence. White is saying nothing less. Perhaps, his opponents just don’t like his interpretation of the law. At any rate, his nomination was long overdue.
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