Thomas Farr

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Thomas Farr
Personal details
Thomas Alvin Farr

(1954-10-24) October 24, 1954 (age 64)
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
EducationHillsdale College (BLS)
Emory University School of Law (JD)
Georgetown University Law Center (LLM)

Thomas Alvin Farr (born October 24, 1954)[1] is an American lawyer. Farr was nominated by President Donald Trump for a judgeship on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in 2017, and again in 2018. Farr was considered a controversial[2] nominee due to his alleged involvement in suppression of African-American voters.[3][4] On November 29, 2018, Republican U.S. Senators Jeff Flake and Tim Scott each announced that they would not support Farr's nomination; these announcements, together with the unanimous opposition of Senate Democrats, made it impossible for Farr's nomination to be confirmed.


Farr earned his Bachelor of Liberal Studies, summa cum laude, from Hillsdale College, where he was co-salutatorian. He received his Juris Doctor from the Emory University School of Law and a Master of Laws in labor law from the Georgetown University Law Center. After graduating from law school, Farr served as a law clerk to Judge Frank William Bullock Jr. of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Prior to entering private practice, he was an attorney with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and counsel to the United States Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He is currently a shareholder in the Raleigh office of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. where his practice focuses on employment matters and constitutional law.[5][better source needed]

North Carolina racial voter suppression[edit]

Farr has been accused of voter suppression towards African-American voters.[3][6] In November 2018, Republican Senator Tim Scott opposed Farr's nomination for a federal judgeship, citing a 1991 DOJ memo on Farr's involvement in the 1984 Jesse Helms campaign's alleged voter suppression against African-Americans.[2][7]

North Carolina voter ID law[edit]

In 2010, Farr advised the North Carolina General Assembly in what federal courts termed a "racial gerrymander" of the state's voting districts.[8] Farr was involved with drafting the 2013 North Carolina voter I.D. law and helped legislators evaluate racial data requested from the North Carolina DMV, which showed that black voters disproportionately lacked driver's licenses.[9][10][11] The DMV data also "revealed that African Americans disproportionately used early voting, same-day registration, and out-of-precinct voting", all of which were curtailed by the law, while absentee voting, disproportionately used by white voters, was exempted from the voter ID requirements.[12] Farr defended the voting restrictions in court before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The appeals court struck down the law, writing that the law targeted African Americans "with almost surgical precision."[13][14]

Farr represented Republican state legislators in lawsuits related to redistricting and voter identification changes which were struck down by a court as racially biased.[15][13] Newsweek described Farr as having a "history of working on voter suppression...part of a wider Republican effort that critics say disenfranchises African-Americans and the poor."[16]

Jesse Helms campaigns[edit]

In 1984, Farr was involved in the Jesse Helms Senate campaign. A 1991 memo from the Department of Justice under the George H.W. Bush administration stated that "Farr was the primary coordinator of the 1984 'ballot security' program conducted by the NCGOP and 1984 Helms for Senate Committee. He coordinated several 'ballot security' activities in 1984, including a postcard mailing to voters in predominantly black precincts which was designed to serve as a basis to challenge voters on election day."[3][4]:12

In 1990, Farr served as the lead legal counsel on Jesse Helms' campaign. The campaign mailed two batches of postcards, totaling about 124,000, "virtually exclusively to black voters"[4]:4 warning "that residency requirements were strict and vote fraud was punishable by imprisonment." The first batch was sent "exclusively to the black voters who had a change of address associated with their name",[4]:36 while the recipients of the second batch were 93.1% African-American.[4]:38 The DOJ sued Helms, saying that the mailers were intended to intimidate African-Americans from voting. As the campaign's legal counsel, Farr defended Helms in the DOJ lawsuit. Farr himself "denied any role in drafting the postcards and said he did not know about them until after the mailers were sent" and was "'appalled' when he found out about them."[16][17][18] Gerald Herbert, a former Department of Justice investigator, contradicted Farr's denial, stating that according to "contemporaneous handwritten notes", Farr partook in a meeting planning the postcards.[19][20][11][14] The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund called upon the Senate to further question Farr about his apparent lack of candor.[19][21][22][23]

Federal judicial nominations[edit]

Farr was nominated to a federal judgeship in both 2006 and 2007 by George W. Bush, but he never received a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.[24]

On July 13, 2017, President Trump nominated Farr to serve as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.[25] Farr was nominated to fill the seat vacated by Judge Malcolm Jones Howard, who took senior status on December 31, 2005.[citation needed] On September 20, 2017, a hearing on his nomination was held before the Senate Judiciary Committee.[26] On October 19, 2017, his nomination was reported out of committee by a party-line vote of 11–9.[27] On January 3, 2018, Farr's nomination was returned to the President under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6 of the United States Senate.[28]

On January 5, 2018, President Trump announced his intent to renominate Farr to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.[29] On January 8, 2018, his renomination was sent to the Senate.[30] Farr was unanimously rated as "well qualified" by the American Bar Association.[31][32] On January 18, 2018, his nomination was reported out of committee by an 11–10 vote.[33]

Farr's nomination was opposed by the Congressional Black Caucus due to Farr's role as a lawyer defending North Carolina voting restrictions which were struck down by a court as racially biased. During his Senate confirmation hearing, Farr said that he disagreed with the Fourth Circuit panel's ruling and that "at the time our clients enacted those laws, I do not believe that they thought that were purposefully discriminating against African Americans." He added that if he were confirmed to the federal judiciary, he would follow the Fourth Circuit's ruling.[15][13]

On November 28, 2018, the United States Senate voted 51–50 in favor of cloture on Farr's nomination, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.[34] The following day, Republican Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tim Scott of South Carolina affirmed their opposition to Farr's nomination; with all 49 Democratic Senators opposed as well, the opposition from Flake and Scott all but assured that his nomination would be rejected.[3][35]

On January 3, 2019, his nomination was returned to the President under Rule XXXI, Paragraph 6 of the United States Senate.


Farr has been a member of the Federalist Society since 1985.[36]


  1. ^ "Attorney Thomas A Farr – Lawyer in Greenville SC". Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Kim, Seung Min; Wagner, John (November 29, 2018). "Republican Sen. Tim Scott says he will block confirmation of Trump judicial nominee amid racial controversy". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Dumain, Emma; Murphy, Brian (November 29, 2018). "Scott to oppose Farr nomination to federal bench in NC, ending chances of confirmation". The State. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Dunne, John R.; Rubin, Lee H. (June 19, 1991). Recommended lawsuit against North Carolina Republican Party, Helms for Senate Committee, et al. under 42 U.S.C. 1971(b) and 42 U.S.C.1973i(b). Civil Rights Division (Report). United States Department of Justice. Retrieved December 9, 2018 – via The Washington Post.
  5. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Fifth Wave of Judicial Candidates". (Press release). The White House. July 13, 2017. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  6. ^ Edmondson, Catie (November 27, 2018). "Democrats Try to Derail Judicial Nominee They Call a Vote Suppressor". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  7. ^ Taylor, Jessica; Snell, Kelsey (November 29, 2018). "Trump Judicial Nominee Set To Fail Amid Voter Suppression Charges". NPR. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  8. ^ Sullivan, Sean (November 28, 2018). "Trump judicial nominee Thomas Farr advances in Senate amid racially charged controversy". Washington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  9. ^ Rutenberg, Jim (July 29, 2015). "A Dream Undone". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  10. ^ "North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. McCrory". Harvard Law Review. April 10, 2017. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Corriher, Billy; Jawando, Michele L. (November 8, 2017). "Senate Rushing to Confirm Trump Judges Who Back Voter Suppression". Center for American Progress. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  12. ^ NC State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, 831 F.3d (United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit July 29, 2016) ("This data revealed that African Americans disproportionately used early voting, same-day registration, and out-of-precinct voting, and disproportionately lacked DMV-issued ID... Not only that, it also revealed that African Americans did not disproportionately use absentee voting; whites did... SL 2013-381 drastically restricted all of these other forms of access to the franchise, but exempted absentee voting from the photo ID requirement.").
  13. ^ a b c "Judicial Nominee: I'll Follow North Carolina Voter ID Ruling". WUNC. Associated Press. September 21, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Amend, Alex (December 4, 2017). "From eugenics to voter ID laws: Thomas Farr's connections to the Pioneer Fund". Hatewatch. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  15. ^ a b Blythe, Anne (September 21, 2017). "Trump pick for NC judge accused of 'hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers' rights'". The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
  16. ^ a b Nazaryan, Alexander (September 21, 2017). "President Trump Is Rewarding A Lawyer Who Has Fought To Block The Black Vote With A Plum Federal Judgeship". Newsweek. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  17. ^ Kim, Seung Min; Wagner, John (November 27, 2018). "Fate of divisive judicial nominee from North Carolina uncertain amid criticism". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  18. ^ Kragie, Andrew (November 29, 2018). "The Long, Bitter Fight Over Thomas Farr". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Levine, Sam (Nov 21, 2017). "Former DOJ Official Accuses Trump Judicial Pick Of Misleading Senate About Past Work". Huffington Post. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  20. ^ Goldsmith, Thomas (November 15, 2017). "Did Former Helms Lawyer Thomas Farr Lie to the Senate Judiciary Committee? It Sure Looks That Way". Indy Week. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  21. ^ "LDF Calls for New Senate Judiciary Committee Hearings for Brett Talley and Thomas Farr". NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Press release). November 16, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  22. ^ Goldsmith, Thomas (November 17, 2017). "After the INDY's Report About Judicial Nominee Thomas Farr Misleading a Senate Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein Wants Answers". Indy Week. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  23. ^ Patrice, Joe (November 20, 2017). "Judicial Nominee May Have Lied To Senate About Role In Racist Voter Suppression Effort". Above the Law. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  24. ^ Robertson, Gary (July 13, 2017). "Farr gets another crack at North Carolina federal judgeship". Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  25. ^ "Ten Nominations Sent to the Senate Today". (Press release). The White House. July 13, 2017. Archived from the original on July 14, 2017.
  26. ^ "United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary".
  27. ^ "Results of Executive Business Meeting – October 19, 2017, Senate Judiciary Committee" (PDF).
  28. ^ Congressional Record, 115th Congress, 2nd Session Issue: Vol. 164, No. 1 — Daily Edition. Congressional Record (Report). United States Senate. January 3, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  29. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Renomination of 21 Judicial Nominees". (Press release). The White House. January 5, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  30. ^ "Nominations Sent to the Senate Today". (Press release). The White House. January 8, 2018. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  31. ^ Whelan, Ed (November 27, 2018). "Schumer Smears Judicial Nominee Thomas Farr". National Review. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  32. ^ Blytheheand, Anne; Murphy, Brian (December 22, 2017). "3 Trump judicial nominees out. Now another faces scrutiny about work for Jesse Helms". The News & Observer. Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  33. ^ Results of Executive Business Meeting – January 18, 2018, Senate Judiciary Committee
  34. ^ U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 115th Congress - 2nd Session United States Senate Vote Summary: Vote Number 249, United States Senate, November 28, 2018
  35. ^ Edmundson, Catie (November 29, 2018). "Senator Tim Scott Sinks Thomas Farr's Judicial Nomination Amid Racial Controversy". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2018.
  36. ^ United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees: Thomas Alvin Farr

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