WASHINGTON – Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s pivotal role in the confirmation of a controversial judge to a federal appeals court drew angry criticism from fellow Democrats on Wednesday – along with Republican applause. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued a press release saying she was “incredibly disappointed” in Feinstein, while Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he would devote a chapter to the California senator in a future book on leadership. Feinstein was the only Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee to side with Republicans in favor of Judge Leslie Southwick. That allowed his nomination to get to the Senate floor, where it was approved 59-38 on Wednesday. Critics say Southwick has shown an insensitivity to the history of civil-rights struggles in the 5th Circuit, which is based in New Orleans and serves Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. In one example, as a state appeals court judge in Mississippi, he was involved in a 1998 decision that upheld the reinstatement of a social worker who used a racial slur in reference to a co-worker. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Three years later, Southwick joined a ruling against a bisexual mother in a custody case. He also joined what some activists said was an anti-gay concurring opinion. Feinstein defended her decision in a long Senate floor speech Tuesday, saying she’d given it much thought. “I think Judge Southwick made mistakes by concurring in the two opinions in question, but I don’t think those rulings define his views. I don’t believe they outweigh the other factors that suggest Judge Southwick should be confirmed,” Feinstein said. She cited Southwick’s qualifications and character, the need to fill the longtime 5th Circuit vacancy, and the importance of looking ahead to the treatment of judicial nominees put forward by a future Democratic president. Feinstein noted that Southwick had been awarded a judicial excellence award by the Mississippi State Bar, and quoted from a letter he sent her in which he said he wished the opinion in the racial slur decision had more emphatically decried use of the n-word. That wasn’t enough for Lee. “California is a state where we pride ourselves on civil rights, legal justice under the law, and I think the people of California would not want to see Southwick confirmed, and it’s very disappointing,” Lee said in an interview. She also said Feinstein had declined to meet with or talk to members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the time of the Judiciary Committee vote in August. In response, Feinstein spokesman Scott Gerber said: “Lines of communication were open between our two offices. Our chief of staff spoke to his counterpart in Rep. Lee’s office at length prior to the Judiciary Committee vote.” Feinstein drew scathing criticism from Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, after the Judiciary Committee vote. Waters said at a Congressional Black Caucus press conference at the time that if Feinstein “continues to relate to this caucus in the way she’s been doing … we will have no alternative but to not only share this information, but to fight against her coming back to the United States Senate.” Waters was not available for comment Wednesday. California’s other senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer, voted against Southwick on Wednesday.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!