Civil Rights Coalition Criticizes Senate Vote on Judicial Nominations

Media 11.14.02

Washington – Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of over 180 national organizations dedicated to the protection and advancement of civil rights and liberties, today expressed his deep disappointment at the Senate Judiciary Committee vote approving the nominations of Dennis Shedd to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Michael McConnell to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Dennis Shedd and Michael McConnell are the latest examples of President Bush’s blatant campaign to pack the federal judiciary with individuals whose views are far outside America’s mainstream,” said Henderson. “Regardless of the outcome of the election, there is no presidential mandate for a right-wing judiciary. The LCCR opposed these nominees before the election because of their record and stated views. We oppose them now because their records remain unchanged. Their approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee is a blow to the interests of civil rights and civil liberties.”

“For many years, the federal courts have been an important bulwark for safeguarding civil rights and liberties, the rights of workers, and environmental protections,” Henderson added. “However, President Bush’s effort to appease his right-wing supporters has led him to put forward nominees like Dennis Shedd and Michael McConnell, who will use their life-time appointments to roll back the clock on civil rights.”

“Dennis Shedd’s eleven years on the federal district court in South Carolina is a sorry record replete with hostility toward plaintiffs in civil rights cases, including minorities, women and persons with disabilities; a desire to limit Congress’s authority to enact proactive legislation that is applicable to the states; and insensitivity to issues of race. Judge Shedd’s views on these issues renders him a poor choice for the Fourth Circuit,” said Henderson.

“Michael McConnell, during his many years as an academic and zealous conservative activist, has written numerous articles that clearly reflect his strong personal views on a number of civil rights and constitutional questions. He has supported efforts to limit congressional authority to protect civil rights and has argued for weakening both statutory and constitutional protections against discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation. McConnell’s record not only fails to show a commitment to civil rights progress, but also demonstrates active opposition to key civil rights principles,” said Henderson.

“Senators who voted to confirm Dennis Shedd and Michael McConnell sent a clear signal to women, racial minorities, workers, and consumers across America that their voices will not be heard. The message is that nominees who are hostile to civil rights, women’s rights, and Congress’s authority to protect those rights, will get lifetime appointments where they can limit or even roll back progress on civil rights and civil liberties,” continued Henderson.

“At LCCR we will continue to fight to ensure that individuals confirmed to the federal courts are committed to the protection of equal opportunity, individual rights, and fundamental freedoms. We know the American people want moderate federal judges who will fairly interpret the law based on judicial precedent and common sense –not judges with a right-wing agenda who will decide cases that will undermine civil rights protections for all Americans,” concluded Henderson.