HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - As the battle to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter makes its way to Capitol Hill, retired federal and one time Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering, knows all too well, the politics involved in appointing a replacement.
"It was a relatively civil proceeding," said Pickering
But that was when Pickering began on the bench in 1990, now he says that's all changed, especially after he was nominated by President Bush to the court of appeals in 2001.
"It was no holds barred, it was a very vicious proceeding." said Pickering.
Pickering's confirmation battle lasted several years. Bush eventually bypassed Congress with a recess appointment giving Pickering a year on the bench in the fifth circuit. Once completed, he was then forced into retirement after not getting confirmed.
"It had become a part of the culture war," said Pickering.
A war involving culture issues, such as abortion, the definition of marriage, pornography and the reference to God in public arenas, all of which will find their way to the Supreme Court.
Now with Judge Sonia Sotomayor tapped as the Supreme Court justice candidate by President Obama, Pickering says her confirmation proceedings may be a little smoother than his.
"I don't see the proceeding with Judge Sotomayor being as vicious or as ugly as the nature of it being as ill tempered as it was when the Bush appellate nominees went through," said Pickering.
Pickering says he doesn't question Judge Sotomayor's ability or integrity as a judge, but does have concerns about her judicial philosophy. "I think that she may think that a judge should make law, should change the constitution and if that turns out whenever the hearings come that she has that philosophy I would vote against her conformation," says Pickering, "But I would not try to tear her down or make her to be a bad person or try to demonize her or try to assassinate her character."
If approved by congress Pickering says Sotomayor's presence on the bench shouldn't create drastic changes. "I do not think the makeup would be changed dramatically because Judge Souter was about as much of an activist judge as you can have."
Retired Judge Charles Pickering is used to giving statements from bench, but not quite as literal as the bench on the Campus of William Carey.
At 72-years-old, Pickering picked up a political thing or two along the way during his career as a federal judge and then during his one-year stay on the bench of thecourt of appeals. Now, on the sideline, he's weighing in on national issues and a new White House administration.
"I must confess I have been on policy, particularly economic policy I have been extremely discouraged," said Pickering.
Pickering points to an Obama Administration and a nearly $800 billion stimulus package ready to be spent without hesitation.
"I don't think we can spend the kind of money that we're spending and not have bad consequences for my grandchildren and perhaps even in our own generation," said Pickering.
Although Pickering supported John McCain during the presidential election, Pickering said Obama does provide a sense of encouragement and enthusiasm.
"I thought the example he could set that he could be an encouragement to minorities, that he could be an encouragement to those who felt like they were not involved in the system," said Pickering
But as policy is made so will history and Pickering says the country could be in trouble if spending habits aren't controlled.
"I just don't think you can accumulate more debt in 6 months than has been accumulated by the United States since we came into existence without having a tremendously negative impact on our economy."