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Public Statements

Executive Session

Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - June 07, 2005)



Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I think it is important for those watching the debate to understand this decision is not a decision about the life history of Janice Rogers Brown. What we are voting on in this particular decision is, on the DC Circuit Court, whether the nominee is going to speak for the struggling middle class of Americans, whether they are going to speak for minorities who have been trying to be a part of the American dream, whether they are going to speak for the rights and liberties of working families, particularly those who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act who work hard every day and have had their lives threatened with inadequate kinds of protection, whether that voice is going to be standing up for children whose lives are going to be affected by the Clean Air Act, or whether they are going to stand up for the children whose lives will be affected by the Clean Water Act.

So many of the important decisions that we have addressed in the Senate over the last 30 years, in order to make this a fairer country, a more just Nation, to advance the cause of economic progress and social justice, ultimately come to the DC Circuit. In many instances, the DC Circuit is the final arbiter of these issues. That is why this is so important. Any judge is important, but I think, for most of us, we raise the level when we consider who is going to serve on the Supreme Court, since that will be a defining aspect of the laws of this country, and a defining voice in terms of the rights and liberties of this Nation as defined in the Constitution of the United States.

It seems to me it is fair enough to ask someone who wants a job on the DC Circuit whether they have a core commitment to these fundamental acts of fairness and justice and basic liberty, and if there are indications during their service on the court that this jurist has demonstrated a hostility toward these basic principles.

That is really the basic issue. I am going to have more time this afternoon to get into the particulars, but it is enormously important that the American people understand that this is not just another circuit court, as important as that is. This is the very specialized DC Circuit Court that has special responsibilities in interpreting the laws, many cases of which never go to the Supreme Court, and, therefore, we should take a careful view of this nominee. When we take a careful view of the nominee, we find that this nominee fails the standard by which we ought to judge advancement to the second most important and powerful court in the land, and that is the DC Circuit Court.

That is true on the issue of civil rights. No one can seriously contend that the overwhelming opposition to her nomination from the African-American community is motivated by bias against Blacks. She is opposed by respected civil rights leaders, including Julian Bond, Chairman of the NAACP; by Dorothy Height, President Emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women, a leader in the battle for equality for women and African Americans over her lifetime, an outstanding and distinguished American who happens to be Black but has struggled to make this a fairer and more just country--for Black women in particular--for all Americans. She is universally admired and respected by Republicans and Democrats. She believes that we would make a major mistake by promoting this nominee to the DC circuit.

She is opposed by the Reverend Joseph Lowery, President Emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, who was there with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the most difficult and trying times in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. I believe, unless I am wrong, he was there at the time of Dr. King's death. He is one of the giants in awakening America to be America by knocking down walls of discrimination. Joseph Lowery believes we should not promote this individual. He has been a leader in the civil rights movement and has worked tirelessly for many years to make civil rights a reality for all Americans.

She is opposed by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and many others concerned with the rights of minorities.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts has 1 minute remaining.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I will have the opportunity to go into the reasons these individuals and organizations take exception to this nominee. It isn't just those I have mentioned but other important leaders who have a keen awareness and understanding of the record and history of the decisions of this jurist. I do not believe she has demonstrated the kind of core commitment to constitutional values which are so essential on such a major and important court. She fails that test. She should not be promoted. There are other distinguished jurists across the country of all different races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds who have demonstrated a core commitment to these values over a long time and are in the mainstream of judicial thinking. We ought to have such a nominee. This nominee does not meet that criteria and, therefore, should not be accepted.


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