One of the most important decisions presidents make is about life-time federal judicial appointments at all levels: circuit, appeal, and the United States Supreme Court. The independent federal judiciary is responsible for ensuring that the country’s courts are fair to all. Even the phrase “equal justice before the law” is carved into the stone facade of the Supreme Court building.
A recent blog from the American Bar Association states: “In order for the nation to continue to have confidence in the integrity and independence of the federal justice system, the process of placing judges on the bench must be seen as fair, without haste and impartial. ”
But for black America and other communities of color, throughout our history and continuing to this day, “justice” is often far from fair or even-handed. In recent years, the Supreme Court has said that businesses should be treated like people and that the right to vote no longer needs to be protected. In November, the High Court is expected to review the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Other issues that may affect the Supreme Court include whether federal agencies can pre-empt state laws protecting consumers from bad actors in the area of student loan administration, and in the area of high-cost payday, auto title and installment loans. Even the half-century-old national fair housing law could be overhauled, due to the Trump administration’s withdrawal of an Obama-era fair housing rule known as the disparate impact . If he is allowed to stand, the onus of proving discrimination will shift to consumers instead of powerful corporations and others.rs allegedly violated the law.
“Over the next few years, the Supreme Court will make important and lasting decisions that will affect all facets of our lives, including income inequality, the racial wealth gap, access to health care – including reproductive rights – and many other issues, ”says a new guidance note from the Center for Responsible Lending.
For these and other reasons, the passing of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg created an important moment for the future of the Court. As the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, the famed “JBR Notorious” broke gender barriers throughout her legal career, forging freedom and access for many historically marginalized people. .
The appointment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy has sparked a chorus of civil rights organizations voicing their categorical opposition. As the former clerk of Judge Antonin Scalia in 1998-99, Barrett often praised him as his mentor and praised his judicial philosophy both as a law school professor and as a judge.
When announcing his appointment to the Rose Garden of the White House on September 26, Barrett said: “I served as a clerk to Judge Scalia over 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned resonate. again. His judicial philosophy is mine too: a judge must apply the law as it is written. Judges are not political decision-makers, and they must be determined to set aside any political opinions they might have. ”
Despite the Tory praise and the Senate majority’s commitment to push through his nomination, civil rights organizations and other advocates have voiced strong opposition to Barrett.
“We oppose its confirmation in court,” said Kristen Clarke, chair and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Its confirmation would radically change the Supreme Court in a way that would prove devastating to black communities and other people of color across the country.”
Likewise, the head of the country’s largest and oldest civil rights organization recently briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee on the NAACP’s position on the nomination.
“Coming in the midst of a presidential election in which more than seven million people have already voted, Barrett’s nomination is as illegitimate as it is corrupt,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP chairman and CEO, wrote to the Judiciary Committee. “Question after question, we found her incredibly hostile to civil rights.”
“Early and absent votes are already cast for the November elections – and the nomination of a candidate for a life nomination to the highest court in this country during this election period undermines the democratic process and does a disservice to the public American, ”said Sherilynn Ifill, President and Managing Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “Senators must also respect the clear will of the American people and honor the precedent they set in 2016, by refusing to consider any candidate until the winner of the presidential election is invested.”
Mike Calhoun, president of the Center for Responsible Lending, said: “The Senate majority must prioritize relief legislation against COVID-19 for the rest of the year and not use the remaining time of this session to confirm judicial nominees, leaving millions of Americans vulnerable. to financial difficulties. ”
Less than three weeks before Election Day, the Senate began the confirmation process on Monday, October 12, with its Judicial Committee hearings, chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The committee is expected to vote on the nomination on October 22. As Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell plans a floor vote for the week of October 26.
Barrett’s quick review is a stark contrast to the long Senate-induced delay in President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination for the 2016 election year.
On February 13, 2016, Deputy Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia passed away. Weeks later, on March 16, 2016, President Obama appointed Judge Merrick Garland as Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
But the US Senate refused to hold committee hearings or a floor vote for nearly a year, denying President Obama the right to fill the vacant seat on the court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly boasted in a speech in August: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and said: ‘Mr. Mr. President, you will not fill the vacant post on the Supreme Court. ”
Almost a year later, the long vacancy in the High Court allowed President Trump to appoint Neil Gorsuch on February 1, 2017. The Senate confirmed Gorsuch on Friday April 7, 2017 and he was sworn in on the following Monday April 10. In real time, this nomination process only lasted two months.
It’s also worth noting that with the nation increasingly diverse, the federal judiciary remains dominated by white judges.
A recent Associated Press analysis of the Trump administration’s judicial appointments found that white males made up nearly 86% of the 206 lifetime appointments made. Likewise, 85% of all US attorneys confirmed by the Senate were white males.
A justice system that does not reflect the people it is sworn to protect struggles to ensure diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives in judicial deliberations. Continuing the trend of appointing and confirming white, conservative judges strains – if not ignores – the nation’s promise of equal justice.
In the words of the Leaders’ Conference on Civil and Human Rights, “During this pandemic and amid national calls for racial justice, we cannot allow Trump to choose a third justice which he believes devastate our hard-fought civil and human rights – including access to health care for millions of people. ”
Looming electoral decisions include the future of hard-won civil rights and whether they will continue to be systematically dismantled. It is up to the voters to decide. And the choices must be clear: a return to the many evils of the past years, or a hopeful future with justice and opportunity for all.
Choose America wisely.
Charlene Crowell is a Principal Investigator at the Center for Responsible Lending.