Thursday, March 30, 2017
As President and CEO of the National Urban League, I am writing to express our strong opposition to elevating Judge Neil Gorsuch as the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. I urge you to vote “no” on his confirmation and to hold Judge Gorsuch to a super-majority, 60-vote standard for confirmation.
The importance of a Supreme Court Justice’s commitment to protecting civil rights cannot be overstated. We believe that more than most other communities, the future of African Americans’ rights and opportunities hang on the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice. 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. We cannot risk additional regression of our civil rights such as the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that led to a proliferation of racially-motivated voter suppression laws throughout the nation.
During his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Gorsuch refused to answer fair and direct questions from Senators about his legal philosophy, deliberately keeping us in the dark about his judicial approach and what kind of justice he would be. What we do know is that Judge Gorsuch has praised the philosophy and jurisprudence of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court Justice he is nominated to replace. Justice Scalia embraced a limited view of civil rights, and took positions that would undo progress and move the law backward in areas such as fair housing, diversity in higher education, school desegregation, voting rights, marriage equality, and others.
Given Judge Gorsuch’s evasiveness during the hearing process, we are limited to his record of opinions for the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to assess his fitness to serve on this nation’s highest court. His record convinces us that as a member of the Supreme Court for life, Judge Gorsuch would tip the balance towards an extensive rollback of access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society. Judge Gorsuch favors restricting access to justice in federal courts, preventing people seeking civil rights protections from fully presenting their claims to a judge and jury. 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. We are very concerned about Judge Gorsuch’s views on government regulation that could undermine civil rights enforcement and deepen racial inequality. His views regarding the important work of federal agencies could lead to fewer and weaker protections for workers, the environment, consumers, and public health—resulting in harms that would disproportionately impact African Americans and other people of color.
In the area of criminal justice, Judge Gorsuch has been opposed to granting relief to prisoners facing execution and has a troubling record in other criminal justice contexts, especially in policing and civil suits that challenge the violent conduct of law enforcement—a widespread problem that disproportionately affects people of color. We are very alarmed that Judge Gorsuch has also dissented when the Tenth Circuit has ordered relief for capital defendants who claim ineffective assistance of counsel during the critical sentencing phase of capital trials. This suggests that he has little regard for the due process rights of criminal defendants facing execution.
Judge Gorsuch’s rulings on these and other matters also raise serious doubt about his judgement on applying the law in a humane way when cases are brought before him. As one Senator put it, “We do not want judges with ice water in their veins.” Neither do we, and for these reasons the National Urban League strongly urges you to reject his nomination for a lifetime seat on the highest court of the land.
Marc H. Morial
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Urban League