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Partner Lynne Bernabei Signs Lawyers’ Committee Statement Urging Senate to Carefully Examine Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Record on Civil Rights Matters

MARCH 20, 2017


Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Releases Report Evaluating Supreme Court Nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Full Record on Civil Rights Cases and Issues Statement to U.S. Senate Urging Full Evaluation of His Record on Civil Rights Matters

More Than 100 Attorneys Across Country Sign Statement Urging Senate to Carefully Examine Nominee’s Record on Civil Rights Matters

MARCH 17, 2017, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) released its report evaluating the full civil rights record of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch. The report provides an examination of his record on cases concerning civil rights matters, including voting rights, employment, housing, criminal justice, education and access to justice issues – matters central to the Lawyers’ Committee’s mission. The report is based primarily on the opinions authored or joined by the judge during his time on the Tenth Circuit.

In addition to the report, the Lawyers’ Committee also issued a statement joined by close to 100 members of its Board of Directors located across the country to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Chairman Chuck Grassley, and Ranking Member Feinstein urging the Senate to closely and carefully examine Judge Gorsuch’s record on civil rights matters.

“The Supreme Court occupies a central place in American democracy as the arbiter of some of the most complex and impactful cases that typically arise across our country,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke. “We have carefully evaluated the record underlying Judge Neil Gorsuch’s time on the Tenth Circuit and do not find that he brings a commitment to protecting and safeguarding civil rights. During the upcoming hearings, the public deserves an opportunity to fully understand his commitment to fair interpretation and application of federal civil rights laws.”

John Nonna, Co-Chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, stated “The Senate Judiciary Committee must closely examine Judge Gorsuch’s record to determine whether he truly brings a commitment to fairly interpreting the Constitution and federal civil rights laws. Our country deserves a Justice who will be faithful to the principle of equal justice under law.”

James Joseph, Co-Chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law stated, “The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is driven by a Board comprised of attorneys from across our country who believe that the Supreme Court plays a special role in our society. The Senate Judiciary Committee must ensure that Judge Gorsuch will fairly handle all matters that come before the Court, including civil rights matters.”

Since its creation in 1963 at the urging of President John F. Kennedy, the Lawyers’ Committee has been devoted to the recognition and enforcement of civil rights in the United States. While we have seen significant progress, the challenges of unlawful discrimination remain. Recognizing the Supreme Court’s critical role in civil rights enforcement and the central role that the Court plays in our democracy, the Lawyers’ Committee has long reviewed the record of nominees to the Court to determine if the nominee demonstrates views that are consistent with the core civil rights principles for which we have long advocated.

In evaluating nominees to the Court, the Lawyers’ Committee has employed a rigorous standard with two distinct components: (1) exceptional competence to serve on the Court based on education, experience and engagement in the legal system at the highest levels of responsibility, and (2) profound respect for the importance of protecting the civil rights afforded by the Constitution and the nation’s civil rights laws based on a large body of civil rights opinions or comparable information from statements and activities other than service on the bench.

In its report, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law expresses grave concern about Judge Gorsuch’s narrow understanding of the rights that are protected by the Constitution and his skeptical view about the importance of the federal court’s role in protecting those rights. The report notes that in his criminal justice decisions, Judge Gorsuch takes a narrow view of constitutional rights, particularly Fourth Amendment rights. The report also raises regarding his views on educational opportunities and students with disabilities. In addition, the report notes that Judge Gorsuch has written a number of opinions on employment law issues in which he has generally affirmed district court decisions dismissing claims asserted by people of color, women, and disabled people. The Lawyers’ Committee also observed that the Senate must explore Judge Gorsuch’s commitment to fairly interpreting and applying laws such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A copy of the report is available here. A letter signed by more than 100 members of the Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law can be found here.