Should a judge with a long, clear and consistent record of ruling against discrimination victims be given an opportunity to have the last word on civil rights laws that impact the entire nation?
Should a judge who objects to the cases establishing the well-settled principle of one person, one vote be placed in a position to affect the voting rights of millions of African Americans throughout the country?
Should a judge who boasted of membership in an anti-affirmative action group and compares affirmative action to slavery be given the deciding vote that determines whether affirmative action stays or goes?
These are some of the many questions raised by the National Urban League's careful and thorough analysis of the record of Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush's nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. The answers led the league last week to unequivocally oppose the nomination.
The league arrived at this decision after a careful and exhaustive review of Judge Alito's record, judicial philosophy and professional qualifications. Our examination reveals that, throughout his career, Alito has demonstrated an insensitivity to the fundamental principles of civil rights and consistently interpreted the Constitution and laws in a manner that undermines equality of opportunity and social justice.
Our study found that Alito, throughout his career, has vigorously opposed affirmative action; one person, one vote; and other civil rights remedies that protect millions of Americans from discrimination to such a degree that it seems to thwart his ability to fairly apply our civil rights laws.
In fact, not once in 15 years has Alito written a majority opinion in favor of an African American alleging discrimination. He has demonstrated an unwavering adherence to a rigid ideology but seems to lack any understanding of how discrimination impacts real people and why civil rights remedies have been and remain necessary.
Judge Alito has expressed great pride about his days as a player in the Reagan administration's relentless attack on affirmative action, boasting in a 1985 job application of his involvement in cases where the administration argued "that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed." However, during his tenure, Alito did not fight against illegal quotas. Instead, he actively worked to dismantle legal affirmative action and curtail the ability of the courts to remedy discrimination.
For example, in urging the court to invalidate a Michigan school policy that allowed White teachers to be laid off first in order to protect the jobs of Black teachers, he argued that affirmative action was tantamount to slavery because "it may still advance some and suppress others not as individuals but because of the color of their skin."
Alito has been nominated to succeed Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who often was the all-important "swing" vote on the court in civil rights cases. Although clearly a conservative with whom we often disagreed, O'Connor was a fair and open-minded judge who decided cases without an unshakeable political ideology. She was frequently the deciding vote in decisions affecting civil rights and in many cases made the difference between maintaining important civil rights protections and losing them altogether.
We urge the Senate not to turn its back on the African American community on this important vote. Eloquent speeches proclaiming a commitment to civil rights mean little when followed by a "yes" vote that rewards yet another anti-civil rights judge with a lifetime appointment where he will do substantial and possibly irreparable damage to those very same rights.
The United States Senate must uphold the Constitution and protect the people it serves by rejecting this nomination and demanding the appointment of judges who will respect, not undermine, our civil rights.
Marc Morial is president of the National Urban League. The league's comprehensive report on the nomination of Judge Alito can be found at www.nul.org/publications/policyinstitute/alitorpt.pdf.