This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Dec. 10, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: With the 108th Congress coming to an end, well, so has the recess appointment of Judge Charles Pickering (search) to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, Democrats kept Judge Pickering from getting a fair vote on the floor, making him the poster boy for Tom Daschle's obstructionist agenda.
Now, last night, in a very rare interview, we spoke to Judge Pickering about the end of his tenure on the bench.
HANNITY: I have got to be honest. I'm sorry to see that you're going here. I know you have been treated unfairly. But you had this recess appointment. Tell us why you decided to do this?
JUDGE CHARLES PICKERING, U.S. FIFTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: Well, it was not a decision that I made. When I took the recess appointment, I realized that the recess appointment would terminate when the Senate adjourned sine die, so I would no longer have the powers to function as a judge.
PICKERING: And I have to retire from active service. So I had to retire before the Senate adjourned if they did not confirm me. When they did not confirm me, I had to retire.
HANNITY: Would you like another opportunity?
PICKERING: Well, you know, I've fought this battle for four years. I really don't think it's fair to my family. I think the president should have the opportunity to nominate someone who's younger, who can serve longer than I can serve.
And you know, I stayed the course. I fought the battle. I would have to be re-nominated again, and I just think it would be better for the president to nominate someone younger.
HANNITY: Judge, you said that a bias against Mississippi played a role in this. Some of the senators actually said things that were derogatory about Mississippi.
PICKERING: Yes, indeed.
HANNITY: I want you to address that in particular, and specifically I want your thoughts on Tom Daschle (search) in this process.
PICKERING: Well, you know, I think those who led the fight to filibuster federal judges paid a price for what they did. I think the American voters, with the decisions in Massachusetts on marriage and in California on the Pledge of Allegiance (search), I think they — the American people saw what the issue was concerning judges, so I think that those who opposed and obstructed paid a price for it.
But, as far as Mississippi is concerned, Mississippi has made tremendous progress in the last 30 years in race relations. We have more African-American elected officials than any state in the union. It was Mississippi prosecutors who prosecuted Byron de la Beckwith (search) for the murder of Medgar Evers (search).
It was a Mississippi prosecutor who prosecuted Sam Bowers (search) for the murder of civil rights activity Vernon Dahmer. Mississippi has made tremendous progress. We've got groups all over the state.
HANNITY: Let me ask you this in this context here, because some of your opponents here tried to accuse you of supporting segregation as a young man, promoting anti-abortion and anti-voting rights views as a state lawmaker.
What is amazing about this, and where it's so obvious it's political, Judge, these are the same guys in many instances that put a former Klansman as the head of their party in the United States Senate. I'm talking about Robert Byrd.
But I want to give you an opportunity, because so many people have said things about you that were not true and were not accurate. I want you to respond directly to those people that were leading this effort against you and accusing you of these false things.
PICKERING: You know, I have a good record on race relations. In 1967, I testified against Sam Bowers, the imperial wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. I led an effort to condemn Klan violence. I've worked with the FBI to try to stop the violence.
Our children went to schools that were — went to integrated schools — that were 70 percent black. I don't think my detractors — I wonder how many of them sent their children to schools that were segregated — or that were integrated.
COLMES: When Bill Clinton did recess appointments, conservatives cried bloody murder. And now George W. Bush is doing them, or talking about doing them. Are you for or against recess appointments?
PICKERING: Well, I accepted one, so, Alan, you would have say I'm for them.
COLMES: You don't think it's — is that not a sneaky way to get people in there who you couldn't otherwise get in?
PICKERING: Alan, if they had given me an up-our-down vote, I would have been confirmed immediately. And the same folks that voted against me this time voted for me unanimously ten years ago when the American Bar Association (search) said I was only met their medium criteria, which was qualified.
And this time, the American Bar Association said I was well-qualified, and the same folks who voted for me 12 years ago voted against me this time. But I never...
COLMES: That's unfortunate, you're absolutely right. But, unfortunately, you know, some of the same games were played when conservatives — during when Bill Clinton was president. Bill Lann Lee couldn't get a hearing because he was for affirmative action, in terms of — he was up for assistant attorney general.
John Ashcroft wouldn't let Ronnie White have a hearing, because he didn't agree with one decision he made. They held up James Hormel because he's gay. Doesn't that game get played on both sides?
PICKERING: Alan, I'm not going to defend what anyone did in obstruction. What I would like to see the Senate do is come forward with a plan that would apply to nominees from Democratic presidents or Republican presidents, where they would all be treated the same and fairly and civilly, and get rid of the mean-spiritedness and let them discuss the issues in a material sort of way, without acrimony and bitterness.
If we keep on with the bitterness that now exists, it's going to affect the quality and the independence of the judiciary.
COLMES: I agree with you. Yes.
PICKERING: This thing should be resolved.
COLMES: I agree with you. Unfortunately, the game got played on both sides. You claim hostility to any nominee with strong religious convictions. Now, 210 of President Bush's nominees have been approved by the Senate. Are you suggesting none of them have strong religious convictions?
PICKERING: The people who had a record of outspoken religion, the Catholic view, Bill Pryor from Alabama. Bill Pryor was outspoken on his religious beliefs, but he had one of the best records of following the rule of law that I know of. And it was because of his outspoken views on abortion, wherever someone had spoken out and had a record on it, these groups opposed them.
The report that they released in January of 2002 attacked me in eight or ten different instances where they accused me of — talked about my religious beliefs and what I had done, and it was not true.
I don't believe that you should try to force religion from the bench. You can't.
Hannity: All right.
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