West: Not Opposed to Pickering

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The head of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus says he no longer opposes U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering's appeals court nomination, a surprising turnabout that could cost him his position.

State Rep. Phillip West, of Natchez, a Democrat, said in a Tuesday statement that he was speaking only for himself and not for the full caucus. A majority of the 45-member caucus has vigorously opposed Pickering's nomination to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Pickering was nominated to the New Orleans-based court by President Bush. He has been criticized by black organizations for his record on civil rights issues.

West said Wednesday he waited to take a public stance on the Pickering nomination because he wanted to persuade the caucus to drop its opposition. When the caucus didn't act, he said, he issued his own statement.

Stephanie Parker-Weaver, Executive Secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Chapter in Mississippi, says West has betrayed minorities who have fought to oppose Pickering's nomination. She says West does not speak for the majority of blacks.