Charles Pickering Sr., whose bruising battle for a seat on a federal appeals court ended abruptly when President Bush elevated him without congressional approval, announced his...

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Charles Pickering Sr., whose bruising battle for a seat on a federal appeals court ended abruptly when President Bush elevated him without congressional approval, announced his retirement yesterday.

Joined by family and friends outside the federal courthouse in Hattiesburg, Miss., Pickering, 67, said he would not seek the nomination for a permanent seat on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans amid opposition from Democrats and civil-rights groups.

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“I have fought this battle for four years, and I think for me, and my family, the time is right to move on,” he said. “President Bush can now nominate someone younger who will be able to serve longer, which I believe is in the best interest of the court.”

Bush first nominated Pickering, a federal judge in Mississippi, to the appeals-court seat in 2001, but Democrats blocked his confirmation.

When they did so again in November 2003, Bush bypassed Congress and elevated him to the appeals court with a recess appointment.

Such appointments, which need no Senate confirmation, are valid until Congress adjourns for the year, which it did Wednesday.

Democrats had accused Pickering of supporting segregation when he was a young man and of promoting anti-abortion and anti-voting-rights views as a state lawmaker.

Pickering said yesterday he has a good record on civil rights.

“A bias against Mississippi played a role in this,” he said. “Some of the senators actually said things that were derogatory about Mississippi.”