‘Nuclear Option’ Considered in the Shadow of Historic Brown Decision

Media 05.17.05

WASHINGTON – As we commemorate the 51st anniversary of the historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in public education, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, is calling on Congress to resist efforts to roll back decades of civil rights progress through lifetime judicial appointments of nominees with horrendous civil rights records.

“Today we mark the anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision,” said Wade Henderson, LCCR Executive Director. “Yet as we celebrate this landmark ruling, the same federal judiciary that courageously took a stand against ‘separate but equal’ is under an unprecedented attack. This week, the U.S. Senate will be the latest battleground in an effort by conservatives to pack the federal courts with out-of-the-mainstream judges who are intent on rolling back decades of progress in the push for equality. The Senate needs to step back and remember what is at stake in this ‘nuclear’ fight over the confirmation of federal judges.”

This week, the majority leadership in the U.S. Senate is widely expected to invoke what is being referred to as the “nuclear option,” which would eliminate the ability of senators to stop the confirmation of federal judges with records hostile to important civil rights protections. If invoked, the “nuclear option” would clear the way for the lifetime confirmation of federal judges such as:

  • California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, who has suggested that modest affirmative action programs somehow resemble “Jim Crow” laws that once mandated racial segregation in the southern United States.
  • Judge William Pryor, who has urged Congress to eliminate a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, which protects the right to vote for African-Americans and other racial minorities, calling this landmark civil rights law “an affront to federalism.”
  • Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, who has tried, unsuccessfully, to rewrite civil rights statutes from the bench in a way that would make it much more difficult to prove instances of discrimination.
  • Judge Terrence Boyle, who went so far as to claim – before being reversed by the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit – that states are exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most important civil rights laws on the books.

    “It is regrettable that Senate leadership is likely to trigger the so-called ‘nuclear option’ only one day after one of the most important anniversaries in our nation’s history, and open the door to the confirmation of judges – such as Brown, Pryor, Owen, and Boyle – who would move this country in the opposite direction,” concluded Henderson. “Before Senators begin debate, we call on them to remember this historic day and to realize the decades of progress that will be at stake for the civil rights community.”

    For more information on the fight to save our system of checks and balances and to stop out-of-the-mainstream judges visit www.saveourcourts.org.