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Cleaver Explains Civil Rights-Based Opposition to Alito Confirmation

Location: Washington, DC


* Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, one of the most thoughtful Members to join us in recent years is the gentleman from Missouri (Mr. CLEAVER) who as a former Mayor of Kansas City makes very significant contributions to the work of our Committee on Financial Services, which has jurisdiction over urban affairs.

* The gentleman from Missouri is also a civil rights leader, and as a minister is very much in the tradition of those in that profession who have provided moral leadership in the long and continuing fight against racism and its effects. Recently, in the Kansas City, Missouri newspaper, The Call, in the issue for the week of December 9th-December 15th, our colleague laid out in a very persuasive and reasoned fashion the objections to the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court that arise from his record on civil rights. I believe that this very useful analysis makes a significant contribution to the national debate on this question and I ask that it be printed here.

[From The Call, Dec. 9-15, 2005]
(By Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, 5th Congressional District)

KANSAS CITY, MO.--In a almost every news stqryabout President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito, the subject of Roe v. Wade, the Court's 1973 decision guaranteeing women the right to choose to have abortions has been the focus. Unfortunately, minorities are not receiving ``much information on Alito's awful'' attitudes on issues of civil rights. In fact, a November 14 edition Newsweek, which carned a seven page story on Alito, did not bother to discuss civil rights.

One case that sheds badly needed light on Alito disgraceful civil rights record involved Beryl Bray; an Africa American housekeeping, manager at a Park Ridge, N.J. Marriott Hotel. Ms. Bray appealed to a trio of federal judge's that she had been turned down on a promotion in the Marriott operation because she'' was black. Two judges wrote that enough evidence had been presented to, justify a jury trial. You guessed it, Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

He downplayed the whole matter by writing that the hotel had simply made ``minor-inconsistencies'' in how they handled hirings; Alito went further in, saying that it would be unfair to allow ``disgruntled employees to impose the cost of trial of employers who, although they have not acted with the intent to discriminate, may have treated their employees unfairly.''

The two judges with a different view of the case felt so strongly about their evidence that they broke. With tradition and actually criticized Alito's written opinion. According to this fellow judges in Bray v. Marriott hotels, Alito's position would have ``eviscerated'' legal protection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The majority said that Alito's position would protect employers from suit even in situation where ``the employer's belief that it had selected the ``best'' candidate ``was the result of conscious racial bias.'''

In a 2001 racial discrimination case, Alito, cast the deciding vote and wrote the opinion in a 2-1 ruling that rejected claims by African American defendant who had been convicted of feloy murder by an all-white jury from which black jurors had been impermissible struck because of their race.

The full Third Circuit reversed this ruling, and the majority specifically criticized Alito for having compared statistical evidence about the prosecution's exclusion of blacks from juries in capital cases to an explanation of why a disproportionate number of recent U.S. Presidents have been left-handed: Judge Dolores Slovitar, in Riley v. Taylor wrote that Alito overlooked the obvious fact that there is no provision in the Constitution that protects persons from discrimination based on whether they are right handed or left-handed. To compare the striking of jurors based their race is to minimize the history of discrimination against prospective, black jurors and black defendants.

My colleague, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a former head of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a distinguished constitutional scholar in her own right, told me that Alito, in her opinion is dangerous to civil rights.

Ms. Norton has studied Alito's, opinions and has led the Congressional Black Caucus in its opposition to the extremely conservative judge. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D- Mass.) has stated through a spokeswoman that: when it comes down to it, he's on the wrong side of civil rights.'' I strongly agree with the Senator. I reviewing the opinions of Alito, even with my law laity status, I have concluded beyond logical challenge, that this nominee has repeatedly made difficult for those claiming to have been victims of discrimination to prove it or to even get a trial.

Should Alito receive Senate confirmation, he will replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor who often cast the critical swing vote that protected civil rights. Alito's addition to the Court means that it will clearly move to the right. With affirmative action, Voting Rights Act reauthorization and other issues likely to be considered by the Supreme Court, it would behoove minorities and people of good will to seek additional information, should they desire such, and in the opinion of the 60's soul group Charles Wright and the Watts 103 Street Rhythm Band, ``Express Yourself!''

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