Civil Rights Coalition Opposes Confirmation of Extremist William Pryor to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Media 06.10.03

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Citing his extremist record, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the confirmation of William Pryor to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

“As Alabama attorney general, Pryor has sought to roll back the clock on federal protections against discrimination based on race, gender, age, and disability,” said Nancy Zirkin, deputy director of LCCR.

“He has pushed his extremist agenda through litigation in which Alabama was a party, by electing to file amicus briefs in cases in which Alabama was not involved, and in numerous public speeches that make clear that the ideological positions he has taken in these cases are his own,” said Zirkin.

“William Pryor’s words and abysmal record in protecting civil, constitutional, and human rights demonstrate that he is an avowed extremist and legal activist. His ideological agenda of limiting Congress’ ability to pass laws aimed at protecting against discrimination and inequalities should certainly disqualify him from a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary,” continued Zirkin.

Pryor is one of the architects of the so-called “states’ rights” movement that seeks to limit the power of Congress to enact legislation that protects our civil and constitutional rights. For example, in United States v. Morrison, 529 U.S. 598 (2000), the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the federal remedy for victims of sexual assault and violence in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was unconstitutional. As Pryor has proudly stated, Alabama was the only state to challenge the constitutionality of VAWA, while 36 states filed briefs urging that the provision be held constitutional.

Pryor has also argued that the Supreme Court should cut back on the protections of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Pryor has also urged Congress to consider eliminating a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which protects the right to vote for African-Americans and other racial minorities. While testifying before a congressional committee, Pryor urged the committee to “consider seriously…the repeal or amendment of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which [he labeled an] affront to federalism and an expansive burden that has far outlived its usefulness.”

Pryor has also criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Virginia, in which it held unconstitutional the denial of admission to women by the Virginia Military Institute, a public university. Disparaging the constitutional rights of women at stake, Pryor criticized this decision, citing it as an example of the court’s having been “both antidemocratic and insensitive to federalism.”

Over the course of his career in the attorney general’s office, Pryor has also been a vocal opponent of the rights of criminal defendants. In one infamous case, he vigorously defended Alabama’s practice of handcuffing prison inmates to hitching posts in the hot sun if they refused to work on chain gangs or otherwise disrupted them, arguing that the practice did not violate the prisoner’s right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court rejected Pryor’s arguments, citing the “obvious cruelty inherent in this practice.”