The Rising Judicial Chorus: Judge Pickering

Charles W. Pickering served as Chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party from 1976 to 1978. In 1990 Bush the Elder appointed him United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi. In 2001, Bush the Younger nominated him for a spot on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the nomination was blocked by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Undaunted, President Bush reappointed him in 2003, and the Democrats filibustered the nomination. President Bush responded to that with a recess appointment in 2004, but Judge Pickering ultimately withdrew from consideration and retired in December 2004.

Clearly, Judge Pickering is no anti-corporate liberal loon. What does he think of ERISA? Here’s what he had to say in 1994:

There has not been a single case that has been filed before this Court by an employee coming into federal court saying, “I want to protect my pension or my benefits under the broad terms of ERISA.” Every single case brought before this Court has involved insurance companies using ERISA as a shield to prevent employees from having the legal redress and remedies they would have had under long-standing state laws existing before the adoption of ERISA. It is indeed an anomaly that an act passed for the security of the employees should be used almost exclusively to defeat their security and leave them without remedies for fraud and overreaching conduct.

The case was Suggs v. Pan American Life Ins. Co., and the citation is 847 F.Supp. 1324 (S.D.Miss. 1994).