LCCR Letter to Senate Opposing the Confirmation of Dennis Shedd to the Fourth Circuit

Media 11.18.02

Recipient: Senate


November 18, 2002

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, we urge you to vote “no” on the confirmation of Dennis Shedd to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. We believe that Dennis Shedd’s eleven-year record on the federal district bench reflects hostility towards plaintiffs in civil rights cases, including minorities, women and persons with disabilities, a desire to limit Congress’s authority to enact protective legislation that is applicable to the states, and insensitivity to issues of race.

Because of the high percentage of minority citizens in the Fourth Circuit and the very conservative nature of the court, it is imperative that any new appointment to this court be a person of moderate views who is wholly committed to the goals of equality and equal opportunity for all Americans. After an extensive review of Judge Shedd’s record, it has become clear that he is not that nominee.

  • During Judge Shedd’s time on the bench, at least forty African-Americans have filed employment discrimination cases that were assigned to Judge Shedd’s court. Of those, Judge Shedd granted summary judgment for the employer in whole or in part in almost every case. In contrast to cases involving African-American plaintiffs, in four out of five discrimination cases filed by White male plaintiffs, Judge Shedd has denied summary judgment and paved the way for trial.

  • Judge Shedd has an equally poor record in cases involving gender discrimination. In one case, he granted summary judgment to an employer in a sexual harassment case, even after concluding that the supervisor’s conduct “clearly was, from an objective standpoint, sufficiently severe and pervasive to constitute a hostile and abusive work environment.”

  • Judge Shedd’s record also displays a consistent disregard for the rights of people with disabilities. He has ruled against disability rights plaintiffs in almost every instance, departing from settled law and adopting tortured interpretations of disability rights laws.

  • Judge Shedd also has a very narrow view of Congress’s power to enact protective legislation. Shedd authored the original district court opinion in Condon v. Reno, striking down the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act based on his belief that the federal government did not have the power to require States to ensure that State driver’s license records would remain private. Although the Fourth Circuit affirmed Judge Shedd’s decision, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the holding in a decision by Chief Justice Rehnquist.

  • Judge Shedd has also exhibited a high level of insensitivity on issues of race. In a recent case, Judge Shedd made several insensitive comments as he dismissed a lawsuit aimed at removing the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse dome. According to press accounts, Judge Shedd suggested that South Carolinians, 30% of whom are African-American, “don’t care if that flag flies or not.” Judge Shedd’s attempt to minimize the symbolism of the Confederate flag to the African-American community reflects a stunning insensitivity to the injurious impact this particular symbol still has on many of our citizens.

Judge Shedd’s record on civil rights, civil liberties, and the interests of plaintiffs render him a poor choice for the Fourth Circuit and we therefore urge you to vote “no” on his confirmation. If you have any questions or need further information, please contact Nancy Zirkin, LCCR Deputy Director/Director of Public Policy at (202) 263-2880, or Julie Fernandes, LCCR Senior Policy Analyst/Special Counsel at (202) 263-2856.


Dr. Dorothy I. Height

Wade Henderson
Executive Director