Civil Rights Leaders Deliver Anti-Nuclear Option Letter to Frist & Reid

Media 05.10,05

Washington, DC – At a news conference on Capitol Hill this morning, the NAACP’s Julian Bond, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights’ (LCCR’s) Vice Chair Judith Lichtman, and LCCR’s Executive Director Wade Henderson delivered a letter signed by nearly twenty civil rights leaders from the nation’s leading civil rights organizations to Senators Frist and Reid calling for caution and urging senators to oppose the so-called “nuclear option”. They were joined by Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator Patrick Leahy, and Congresswoman Eleanor Norton Holmes of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Once again, the enemies of civil rights have played the race card, but the fight for civil rights is not a game of Texas Hold ‘Em – it is a deadly serious human contest with real people’s lives and futures at stake,” said Bond. “What is at issue here are lifetime appointments for radical judicial nominees vehemently opposed to civil rights protections. Playing the race card only demonstrates how bankrupt their goals are – and how desperate they are to win at any cost. They are truly dealing from the bottom of the deck.”

In addition to voicing opposition to the nuclear option, leaders addressed the abhorrent civil rights records of Janice Rogers Brown and Terrence Boyle and the cynical political strategy of the Bush administration in nominating women and ethnic minorities whose records display hostility toward civil rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights, individual rights, and civil liberties. Bond told reporters, “It is especially insulting to clothe one nominee – Justice Janice Rogers Brown – in pigment, rather than principle, substituting race for rationality and color for capability.”

“Justice Rogers Brown and Judge Boyle do not deserve lifetime appointments on our federal bench,” said Henderson. “The President owes it to the American people to nominate fair-minded judicial candidates that all Americans can be proud of. Justice Rogers Brown and Judge Boyle are two sides of the same coin – they both have demonstrated strong, persistent and disturbing hostility toward civil rights. That is not a record to be proud of.”

Nominated to our country’s second highest court, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown has a troubling civil rights record. In her opinions, Justice Brown has shown an inability to dispassionately review cases; instead, her opinions are rooted in ideology that ignores judicial precedent, including that set by the U.S. Supreme Court. In one such case, Aguilar v. Avis, Rogers Brown went so far as to argue that racial slurs hurled at 17 Hispanic workers by their supervisor were protected by free speech and thus not considered workplace harassment.

Not alone in her hostility toward civil rights laws, Judge Terrence Boyle has handed down some of the most discriminatory rulings in recent memory. He has repeatedly promoted “states’ rights” at the expense of federally-protected civil rights. In one case, United States v. North Carolina, Judge Boyle found that the state could discriminate against women because federal anti-discrimination laws conflicted with North Carolina’s “culture”. His ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court.

“This morning we presented a letter to the Senate signed by nearly 20 leaders and leading civil rights organizations,” said Lichtman. “The letter makes clear our collective, vigorous opposition to the so-called nuclear option. We believe that the nuclear option is nothing more than a raw grab for power. It is a blatant, unabashed effort to break the rules rather than play by the rules, to stifle dissent, to remove our checks and balances, and to put politics before the integrity of our courts.”