No Comment — July 24, 2009, 9:47 am

The Pickering Diaries

Just what went on in the right-wing Republican frat house that passes for a “church” on C Street? It looks like part of the answer is to be found in Mississippi, where legal maneuvers in twin divorce and alienation of affection lawsuits have focused on a set of journals maintained by former Congressman Chip Pickering—a man widely expected to leap to the leadership of the state’s dominant G.O.P. machine before his extramarital affairs drew public attention. “While former Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi allegedly carried on an extramarital affair with Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd,” writes the Daily Beast’s Max Blumenthal, “he recorded details of his exploits in a secret diary, including the dates and locations of his adulterous encounters.”

I would question the ultimate news value of another story about a “family values” Republican congressman involved in an adulterous liaison in Washington. But the real story here is about a politically influenced court system. The court should strive to enforce the law, doing substantial justice and looking after the best interests of the five children of Chip Pickering and his estranged wife Leisha. It should take into account the fact that Chip Pickering, as a public personage, is not entitled to the level of privacy and protection that a purely private individual would have—in fact, the public has a legitimate interest in knowing what he did when he went to Congress as their representative, pledging to uphold a “family values” creed. But Pickering carefully steered the case into the court of Judge Cynthia Lee Brewer, a move that proved tactically brilliant. Brewer protected him and his political position from the outset, putting the interests of his wife and five children in the shadows. Brewer is a loyal Republican with political ties to the party’s leadership, including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. He engineered the G.O.P.’s successful political makeover of the Mississippi courts, fueling the G.O.P. judicial slate with Washington-based lobbying money. Pickering also now works with a lobbying firm in which the Barbour family is deeply involved. Judge Brewer’s one-sided rulings include extraordinary efforts to suppress the Pickering journals and a highly improper disqualification of the wife’s counsel coupled with compelling the wife to testify without legal representation. Max Blumenthal takes us on a tour of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of politically charged justice in Mississippi, as it strains to suppress documents that could blow apart one of Washington’s most lurid scandals.

When she attempted to introduce her husband’s diary as evidence during a July 7 divorce hearing in Mississippi, Pickering’s lawyers demanded Judge Cynthia Lee Brewer keep them under seal. Though the lawyers had scant legal precedent for their request, the judge acceded, saying the diaries were prepared in anticipation of litigation and were therefore inadmissible in court. A source close to the case told me Brewer’s ruling was “incredibly outside the norm” and “outrageous.” “The court seemed in awe of Chip Pickering,” an attorney speaking on background told the Jackson Free Press, “like they had decided that were going to do everything to help him out. This was blatantly wrong.”

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Standing Rock Speaks

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The New Red Scare

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Amount paid last fall for a Ford Escort driven by Pope John Paul II:

$680,000

92 percent of Mexicans are relaxed by a pleasant-smelling bedroom.

Swedish biologists studying coercive mating in mosquitofish discovered that females’ brains get larger as males’ genitals get longer, and male Madagascar hissing cockroaches were found to attract mates with either their enlarged testicles or their enlarged horns.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today