Battle Brewing Over the Racial Record of President Bush’s Latest Appeals Court Nominee

Since the Samuel Alito hearings, the dust seems to have settled in the chambers of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But rest assured, a battle royal will occur if hearings are scheduled for the nomination of Michael Wallace to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

After the May 2005 agreement by a group of 14 centrist senators which ended the stalemate on President Bush’s controversial appeals court nominees, Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter and Senate majority leader Bill Frist have been reluctant to act on several of the president’s remaining controversial appointments. For example, the nomination of William G. Myers to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has been in limbo for more than a year because of strong opposition from environmental groups.

The GOP leadership in the Senate also does not seem anxious for a fight over the Wallace nomination. Several leading civil rights groups have already announced their opposition.

Early in his career, Wallace was an aide to Mississippi senator Trent Lott. In that capacity he wrote a memo urging the Reagan administration to uphold the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, despite the institution’s ban on interracial dating by students. Wallace also was involved in several Mississippi voting rights cases. Here he argued that the government should intervene in voting rights cases only when it could be proven that the state intended to discriminate by race in drawing district boundaries.

Wallace, now 54 years old, is a native of Biloxi, Mississippi. He is a partner of the Jackson, Mississippi, law firm Phelps Dunbar. Wallace is a graduate of Harvard University and holds a law degree from the University of Virginia.