Civil Rights Coalition Applauds Senate for Defeating the Confirmation of William Pryor

Media 11.6,03

Citing his record of far-right extremism, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today applauded the U.S. Senate for rejecting the confirmation of William Pryor to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

“When it comes to the rights of women, minorities, seniors, and individuals with disabilities, William Pryor’s reactionary record demonstrates a desire to return America to as it was before Congress enacted legislation protecting those rights,” said Wade Henderson, executive director of LCCR.

“As Alabama attorney general, Pryor worked to turn back the clock on federal protections against discrimination based on race, gender, age, and disability. 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 Henderson.

“William Pryor is far beyond the mainstream of America. His 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 Henderson.

In his role as one of the architects of the so-called “states’ rights” movement, Pryor not only challenged the constitutionality of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but 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 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, stating that it is “an affront to federalism and an expansive burden that has far outlived its usefulness.” He also criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Virginia, which found unconstitutional the denial of admission to women by the Virginia Military Institute, a public university.

Over the course of his career in the attorney general’s office, William 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.”