The importance of a Supreme Court Justice’s commitment to protecting civil rights cannot be overstated. Much of the progress this nation has made on issues of equal opportunity are due to Supreme Court rulings such as Brown v. Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, Obergefell v. Hodges and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.
The Supreme Court has also regressed on civil rights, as with Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and led to a proliferation of racially-motivated voter suppression laws throughout the nation.
More than most other communities, the future of African Americans’ rights and opportunities hang on the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice.
That’s why the National Urban League cannot support the nomination of Judge Neill Gorsuch.
Beyond the level of scholarship and judicial experience required of a Justice, which Judge Gorsuch does appear to meet, a Supreme Court Justice must have demonstrated what the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights called “a profound respect for the importance of protecting the civil rights afforded by the Constitution and the nation’s civil rights laws based on a large body of civil rights opinions or comparable information from statements and activities other than service on the bench.”
We see no such respect demonstrated by Judge Gorsuch.
As I have maintained since the announcement of his nomination, what I find most troubling in the record of Judge Gorsuch is his apparent criticism of those who have sought advancement of individual rights through the courts.
He consistently has ruled against the rights of workers and consumers who were harmed by employers and corporations, and against disabled students pursuing their right to a meaningful education.
In fact, even as he sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly rejected his opinion that a school district complies with the law so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’” In other words, according to Judge Gorsuch, a school district can meet its obligation to disabled students with little more than nothing.
Of course, no serious discussion of Judge Gorsuch’s confirmation can ignore the fact that his nomination was the result of an egregious dereliction of duty by the Senate, who refused to give President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, the hearing he was due. The Senate’s failure with regard to that nomination does not bode well for its ability to keep partisanship from tainting the process.
Marc H. Morial is President and CEO, National Urban League