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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.

This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

NPR : The Legacy of Coretta Scott King

NPR : The Legacy of Coretta Scott KingRemembrances
The Legacy of Coretta Scott King

Listen to this story...

News & Notes with Ed Gordon, January 31, 2006 · Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights pioneer the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., has died. Ed Gordon remembers the civil rights activist with his guests: Dick Gregory, an author and activist; Mary Frances Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania; and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.

NPR : Senate Confirms Alito as Supreme Court Justice

NPR : Senate Confirms Alito as Supreme Court JusticeSenate Confirms Alito as Supreme Court Justice

Samuel Alito poses on Capitol Hill in Washington Jan. 30.
Enlarge, January 31, 2006 · WASHINGTON (AP) -- Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. became the nation's 110th Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, confirmed with the most partisan victory in modern history after a fierce battle over the future direction of the high court.

The Senate voted 58-42 to confirm Alito -- a former federal appellate judge, U.S. attorney, and conservative lawyer for the Reagan administration from New Jersey -- as the replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote on the court.

All but one of the Senate's majority Republicans voted for his confirmation, while all but four of the Democrats voted against Alito.

That is the smallest number of senators in the president's opposing party to support a Supreme Court justice in modern history. Chief Justice John Roberts got 22 Democratic votes last year, and Justice Clarence Thomas -- who was confirmed in 1991 on a 52-48 vote -- got 11 Democratic votes.

Alito watched the final vote from the White House's Roosevelt Room with his family. He was to be sworn in by Roberts at the Supreme Court in a private ceremony later in the day, in plenty of time for him to appear with President Bush at the State of the Union speech Tuesday evening.

Alito will be ceremonially sworn in a second time at a White House East Room appearance on Wednesday.

With the confirmation vote, O'Connor's resignation became official. She resigned in July but agreed to remain until her successor was confirmed. She was in Arizona Tuesday teaching a class at the University of Arizona law school.

Underscoring the rarity of a Supreme Court justice confirmation, senators answered the roll by standing one by one at their desks as their names were called, instead of voting and leaving the chamber.

Alito and Roberts are the first two new members of the Supreme Court since 1994.

Alito is a longtime federal appeals judge, having been confirmed by the Senate by unanimous consent on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on April 27, 1990. Before that, he worked as New Jersey's U.S. attorney and as a lawyer in the Justice Department for the conservative Reagan administration.

It was his Reagan-era work that caused the most controversy during his three-month candidacy for the high court.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Kerry Gets Cool Response to Call to Filibuster Alito - New York Times

Kerry Gets Cool Response to Call to Filibuster Alito - New York TimesJanuary 27, 2006
Kerry Gets Cool Response to Call to Filibuster Alito

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 — Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts could not attend the Senate debate on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. on Thursday. He was in Davos, Switzerland, mingling with international business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum.

But late Thursday afternoon, Mr. Kerry began calling fellow Democratic senators in a quixotic, last-minute effort for a filibuster to stop the nomination.

Democrats cringed and Republicans jeered at the awkwardness of his gesture, which almost no one in the Senate expects to succeed.

"God bless John Kerry," said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Judiciary Committee. "He just cinched this whole nomination. With Senator Kerry, it is Christmas every day."

Steve Schmidt, a White House spokesman working on the nomination, said Mr. Kerry's move "says a lot less about Alito than it does about the Iowa primary in 2008," suggesting that Mr. Kerry, who lost the presidential race in 2004, was playing to his party's liberal base in a bid to recapture its nomination.

Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader, sounded almost apologetic about Mr. Kerry's statements.

"No one can complain on this matter that there hasn't been sufficient time to talk about Judge Alito, pro and con," Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. "I hope that this matter will be resolved without too much more talking."

And on Friday, Senator Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat and member of the Judiciary Committee who voted against Mr. Alito there, said he would not support a filibuster and doubted one would happen.

Speaking in a televised interview on CNN, Mr. Biden said that he thought the Republicans would inevitably force a decision, so Democrats should use their votes to "make a statement" without seeking a delay.

Mr. Kerry's call for a filibuster, an effort to stop confirmation by refusing to close debate and hold a vote, was joined by his fellow Democratic senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy.

Under Senate procedures, their objections blocked the Senate Democratic and Republican leaders from setting Tuesday as the date for a vote on confirmation.

Instead, the Senate will vote Monday on whether to close debate. Sixty votes are required for a full Senate vote on Judge Alito. More than 60 senators have already pledged to support him, and the leaders of both parties said they expected to hold the full vote on Tuesday.

Mr. Kerry offered an explanation for his position in a post on a liberal blog, the Daily Kos.

"People can say all they want that 'elections have consequences,' " he wrote. "Trust me, more than anyone I understand that. But that seems like an awfully convoluted rationale for me to stay silent about Judge Alito's nomination."

Mr. Kerry was celebrated by leaders of the coalition of liberal groups opposing Judge Alito's nomination.

"Senator John Kerry has called for a filibuster of the Alito nomination, heeding your calls to do everything possible to defeat it," People for the American Way cheered in an e-mail message to its supporters.

Mr. Kennedy said a filibuster might help focus attention on the nomination and give its opponents a last chance to sway the public and the Senate.

He acknowledged some "divisions in the caucus" over the advisability of a filibuster, but he said the effort had the support of a few others, including Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Democratic whip.

A spokesman for Mr. Durbin confirmed that he would vote against closing debate.

"It is an uphill climb at this point," Mr. Kennedy said of a filibuster. "But it is achievable."

Asked if Mr. Kerry's absence from the Senate would hinder their efforts, Mr. Kennedy said, "We'll do the best we can and make a good fight of it."

Mr. Kerry has been rallying his supporters against the nomination for weeks in mass e-mail messages and on his Web site.

And when the Democratic caucus met Wednesday to discuss the nomination, he gave an impassioned plea that the party should try to stage a filibuster even if it failed, people present said, speaking only if granted anonymity because the meeting was private. Some senators at the meeting said an unsuccessful filibuster would leave the party weakened for future battles.

Some said a messy and unsuccessful filibuster fight would distract from the Democratic focus on other issues like corruption in government and wiretapping by the Bush administration.

In the end the party leaders were not persuaded by Mr. Kerry's appeal.

Judge Alito's confirmation was looking increasingly certain Thursday. Two more Democrats, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, said they would break party ranks to vote for confirmation.

Mr. Byrd said his constituents had told him they were "appalled" by the harsh questioning Judge Alito received from the Senate Judiciary Committee at his confirmation hearings, calling them "an outrage and a disgrace."

With Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Byrd bring the number of Democrats pledging support for Judge Alito to three. The vote on confirmation is expected to hew closely to party lines. No Republicans have said they will vote against him.

Two Republican supporters of abortion rights, Senators Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, have not declared how they will vote.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Mr. Kerry issued a statement saying, "Judge Alito's confirmation would be an ideological coup on the Supreme Court."

"The president has every right to nominate Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court," Mr. Kerry said. "It's our right and our responsibility to oppose him vigorously."

A few moments later, April Boyd, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kerry, sent a postscript saying that "as things played out over the course of the day today" he had decided to fly home. "Kerry will be back in Washington tomorrow," Ms. Boyd said.


Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return - New York Times

Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return - New York TimesJanuary 27, 2006
Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — New Orleans could lose as much as 80 percent of its black population if its most damaged neighborhoods are not rebuilt and if there is not significant government assistance to help poor people return, a detailed analysis by Brown University has concluded.

Combining data from the 2000 census with federal damage assessment maps, the study provides a new level of specificity about Hurricane Katrina's effect on the city's worst-flooded areas, which were heavily populated by low-income black people.

Of the 354,000 people who lived in New Orleans neighborhoods where the subsequent damage was moderate to severe, 75 percent were black, 29 percent lived below the poverty line, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and more than half were renters, the study found.

The report's author, John R. Logan, concluded that as much as 80 percent of the city's black population might not return for several reasons: their neighborhoods would not be rebuilt, they would be unable to afford the relocation costs, or they would put down roots in other cities.

For similar reasons, as much as half of the city's white population might not return, Dr. Logan concluded.

"The continuing question about the hurricane is this: Whose city will be rebuilt?" Dr. Logan, a professor of sociology, writes in the report.

If the projections are realized, the New Orleans population will shrink to about 140,000 from its prehurricane level of 484,000, and the city, nearly 70 percent black before the storm, will become majority white.

The study, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was released Thursday, 10 days after the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, who is black, told an audience that "this city will be a majority African-American city; it's the way God wants it to be."

Mr. Nagin's remark was widely viewed as an effort to address criticism of a proposal by his own rebuilding panel, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, that calls for a four-month building moratorium in heavily damaged areas. He said later that he had not meant to suggest that white people would not be encouraged to return.

"Certainly Mayor Nagin's comments reflected a concern on the ground about the future of the city," Dr. Logan said. "My report shows that there is a basis for that concern."

The study coincides with growing uncertainty about what government assistance will be available for property owners and renters. Louisiana will receive $6.2 billion in federal block grants under an aid package approved by Congress in December, part of which will be used to help homeowners. But that will not be enough money to help all property owners in storm-damaged areas, Louisiana officials say.

Those officials have urged Congress to enact legislation proposed by Representative Richard H. Baker, Republican of Louisiana, creating a corporation that would use bond proceeds to reimburse property owners for part of their mortgages, then redevelop the property. But the Bush administration has said it opposes the bill, out of concerns that it would be too expensive and would create a new government bureaucracy.

Asked Thursday about his opposition to the measure, President Bush told reporters that the $85 billion already allocated for Gulf Coast restoration was "a good start." He added that he was concerned that Louisiana did not have a clear recovery plan in place.

But Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana, a Democrat who has clashed frequently with the White House, said Mr. Baker's bill provided a clear plan.

"Administration officials do not understand the suffering of the people of Louisiana," Ms. Blanco said in a statement.

Demographers are divided over the likelihood of a drastic shift in New Orleans's population. William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who has studied the hurricane's impact on the city, called Dr. Logan's projections "a worst-case scenario that will come about only if these evacuees see that they have no voice in what is going on."

But Dr. Frey also said low-income evacuees might indeed begin to put down roots in cities like Houston or Dallas if they did not see movement toward reconstruction in the next six months.

Elliott B. Stonecipher, a political consultant and demographer from Shreveport, La., said that unless New Orleans built housing in flood-protected areas for low-income residents, and also provided support for poor people to relocate, chances were good that many low-income blacks would not return.

"If they didn't have enough resources to get out before the storm," Mr. Stonecipher said, "how can we expect them to have the wherewithal to return?"

New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps - New York Times

New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps - New York TimesJanuary 27, 2006
New Poll Finds Mixed Support for Wiretaps

Americans are willing to tolerate eavesdropping without warrants to fight terrorism, but are concerned that the aggressive antiterrorism programs championed by the Bush administration are encroaching on civil liberties, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

In a sign that public opinion about the trade-offs between national security and individual rights is nuanced and remains highly unresolved, responses to questions about the administration's eavesdropping program varied significantly depending on how the questions were worded, underlining the importance of the effort by the White House this week to define the issue on its terms.

The poll, conducted as President Bush defended his surveillance program in the face of criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that it is illegal, found that Americans were willing to give the administration some latitude for its surveillance program if they believed it was intended to protect them. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said they supported eavesdropping without warrants "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism."

The results suggest that Americans' view of the program depends in large part on whether they perceive it as a bulwark in the fight against terrorism, as Mr. Bush has sought to cast it, or as an unnecessary and unwarranted infringement on civil liberties, as critics have said.

In one striking finding, respondents overwhelmingly supported e-mail and telephone monitoring directed at "Americans that the government is suspicious of;" they overwhelmingly opposed the same kind of surveillance if it was aimed at "ordinary Americans."

Mr. Bush, at a White House press conference yesterday, twice used the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" to describe an operation in which the administration has eavesdropped on telephone calls and other communications like e-mail that it says could involve operatives of Al Qaeda overseas talking to Americans. Critics say the administration could conduct such surveillance while still getting prior court approval, as spelled out in a 1978 law intended to guard against governmental abuses.

The findings came in a poll conducted as Mr. Bush prepares to deliver his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday. It found that Mr. Bush will face a nation that has grown sour on Washington and skeptical that he will be able to achieve significant progress in health care, the economy, the Iraq war and the cost of prescription drugs for older patients before he leaves office in three years.

The poll also signaled concern for Republicans as they prepare to defend their control of the House and the Senate in midterm elections this November. Investigations into Congressional corruption are taking a toll as the elections approach: 61 percent of Americans now hold an unfavorable view of Congress, the highest in 10 years.

This finding holds particular peril for Republicans as the party that has been in charge. More than half of the respondents said they believed that most members of Congress would exchange votes for money or favors.

Republicans were seen as more likely to be unduly influenced by lobbyists. And the Republican Party is now viewed unfavorably by 51 percent of the nation, its worst rating since Mr. Bush took office. By contrast, 53 percent said they held a favorable view of Democrats.

The telephone poll was conducted with 1,229 adults, starting Friday and ending Wednesday. Its margin of sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points.

The poll found that Americans were to a large extent perplexed as they weighed conflicting forces: the need presented by Mr. Bush to take extraordinary action to fight terrorism, and a historical aversion to an overly intrusive government.

The poll found that 53 percent of Americans approved of Mr. Bush's authorizing eavesdropping without prior court approval "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism"; 46 percent disapproved. When the question was asked stripped of any mention of terrorism, 46 percent of those respondents approved, and 50 percent said they disapproved.

At the same time, 64 percent said they were very or somewhat concerned about losing civil liberties as a result of antiterrorism measures put in place by Mr. Bush since the attacks of Sept. 11. And respondents were more likely to be concerned that the government would enact strong antiterrorism laws that excessively restrict civil liberties than they were that the government would fail to enact antiterrorism laws.

The poll was conducted just as the White House commenced an elaborate campaign to defend the surveillance program, and thus may have been too early to offer a full measure of that campaign's effectiveness. There were no measurable changes in the poll findings from one day to the next.

The findings, and follow-up interviews with some participants, clearly suggest that Mr. Bush has an opportunity to make the dispute over the program play to his political advantage. He has been pointing to the threat of another terrorist attack to justify the eavesdropping program and is trying, for the third election in a row, to suggest that he and his party are more aggressive about protecting the nation than are Democrats.

"Say they're targeting someone in Al Qaeda outside the country, and that person then calls someone in the United States about a plot or something really bad: I don't have a problem with that phone being monitored," Debbie Viebranz, 51, a Republican from Ohio, said in a follow-up interview. "But I don't think they should do it for no reason."

Donnis Wells, 69, a Republican from Florence, Miss., said: "I don't think civil liberties are the more important thing we need to handle right now. I think we need to protect our people."

Still, interviews reflected clear apprehension about the program. "If there is a warrant and done by the courts, I would agree," said Robert Ray, 54, an independent from Kentucky. "But they're trying to do it without using the courts. I just don't trust them."

In the poll, 70 percent of respondents said they would not be willing to support governmental monitoring of the communications of "ordinary Americans"; 68 percent said they would be willing to support such monitoring of "Americans the government is suspicious of."

Beyond surveillance, the poll found that Americans hold unfavorable views of the president and the Republican-controlled Congress as Mr. Bush prepares to give his State of the Union speech. Americans, while declaring themselves generally optimistic about the next three years under Mr. Bush, do not expect him to accomplish very much in that time.

When Mr. Bush leaves office, respondents said, the deficit will be larger than it is today, the elderly will be being paying more for prescription drugs, and the economy and the health care system will be the same as today, or worse.

Mr. Bush is viewed favorably by 42 percent of the respondents, statistically the same as in the last Times/CBS News poll, in early December, a lackluster rating that could hamper his ability to rally public opinion behind his agenda and push legislation through a divided Congress. Beyond that, nearly two-thirds of the country thinks the nation is on the wrong track, a level that has historically proved to be a matter of concern for a party in power.

A majority said they were dissatisfied with the way Mr. Bush was managing the economy and the war in Iraq. Public approval for his handling of the campaign against terrorism, once one of his greatest political strengths, has rebounded somewhat from last fall, but remains well below where it was for the first two years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Most strikingly, the poll found abundant evidence of public unhappiness with Congress. While it is risky to draw conclusions about Congressional elections from national measurements of discontent — for example, more than half of all Americans said they were satisfied with the job their member of Congress was doing — the findings underscored the tough electoral environment that has led some analysts to predict significant Republican losses this fall.

The corruption investigations appear to account for a lot of the dissatisfaction. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said that the kind of influence-peddling revelations that have emerged in the investigation of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff reflected the "way things work in Congress" and were not isolated incidents. More than 50 percent said most members of Congress "accept bribes or gifts that affect their votes."

"It seems like the integrity of Congress members in the last few years has just gone to pot," said Donald Pertuis, 54, an independent voter from Hot Springs, Ark. Mr. Pertuis added: "In the last 20 years, greed has accelerated. People expect more, I suppose, and want to work less."

Marjorie Connelly, Marina Stefan and Megan Thee contributed reporting for this article.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Plank


Wow, Ray Nagin is the gift that keeps on giving. Following up on his MLK Day speech, in which (as I inexcusably failed to note in this post) he proclaimed that God wanted New Orleans to be a "chocolate" city, today Nagin had this to say:

"How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about. . . . New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special."

Maybe "mocha city" would have been the better phrase. All joking aside, however, Nagin is, in his own blundering way, making a worthwhile point. While he was certainly dumb to say that God wanted New Orleans to remain a majority-black city, the issue of how the city is rebuilt--and whether, in the process, it gets intentionally whitened--is a serious one. And Nagin, and other black New Orlineans, aren't being paranoid when they worry that some white people in the city are secretly, and not so secretly, hoping that a rebuilt New Orleans is decidedly more vanilla, or, to use Nagin's terminology, white milk-like. Of course, the most important thing is that the city be rebuilt in a way that not only allows its black residents to return there, if they so choose, but also allows them to return to neighborhoods that are not squalid and dysfunctional and impoverished in the way they were before Katrina. I don't know if Nagin has any sort of gastronomic analogies to make that point, but I'd love to hear them.

--Jason Zengerle

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Post from Morehouse Entertainment Law Student Brian Henry

Afternoon Professor Armwood:
I just wanted to forward you this infromation from the NAACP, in regards to Alito's nomination. See you in entertainment law class on Weds.

Brian D. Henry
Morehouse College NAACP, President
Economics Major
443.621.4476 (c)

1156 15th Street, NW Suite 915 · Washington, DC 20005 · P (202)463-2940 · F (202)463-2953 · WEB ADDRESS

DATE: January 13, 2006

TO: Concerned Parties

FROM: Bruce Gordon, NAACP President & CEO
Hilary O. Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau


After three days of hearings in which almost 700 questions were asked over a period of 18 hours, the concerns raised by the NAACP in December on Samuel Alito's record on civil rights issues remain unanswered. In fact, the hearings only heightened the NAACP's concerns over the nominee, with his inability to adequately defend his membership in a group that sought to limit the enrollment of women and minorities at Princeton, his alma mater.

During the Senate Judiciary Confirmation hearings, Judge Alito's responses to many of the key questions posed to him were vague and unfulfilling. Specifically, he did not back away from, nor did he fully explain, his written criticism of the concept of "one man, one vote." Nor did he explain why, in case after case, he appears to have bent over backwards and twisted his interpretation of the law to always come out on the side of the wealthy and powerful. Lastly, for a man who was praised by multiple witnesses as having an unfailing memory and an ability to recall even the most arcane detail, the NAACP was left particularly concerned by his claims that he does not recall why he joined the Concerned Alumni
of Princeton (CAP), a group that at the time espoused especially offensive and bigoted goals, or his claim that he cannot recall why he felt that such membership would enhance his job application with the Reagan White House.

The hearings made only one thing clear to the NAACP: Samuel Alito remains indifferent to the impact race and racism still have on our society today, and he has no intention of recognizing them if he is confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. A brief overview of his career to date bears this fact out, and it is a career for which he did not adequately answer during the Senate Committee hearings. Specific areas of concern that remain unanswered include:

· In 1985 Judge Alito disagreed in writing with the concept of "one man, one vote";
· In 2000 he voted to uphold an anti-affirmative action decision of a lower court;
· In 1997 he strongly disagreed with a Third Circuit ruling and made it clear that he
supports impossibly high barriers for victims of discrimination to have their cases heard;
· In 1997, he ruled that striking all African Americans from the jury of a case involving
an African American man and the death penalty was irrelevant and likened it to a recent
study showing that a disproportionate number of recent Presidents have been left-handed.

Thus the NAACP remains opposed to the nomination and strongly urges the Senate to reject confirmation. If and when this occurs, the NAACP urges the Administration to nominate an individual who is more concerned with the law and with fairness than the current nominee.

Contact both your Senators and URGE THEM TO OPPOSE THE NOMINATION OF JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO TO THE SUPREME COURT . To contact your Senators you may:

o Make a Phone Call
Call your Senators in Washington by dialing the Capitol Switchboard and asking to be transferred to your Senators' offices. The switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121 (see message section, below).

o Write a Letter
To write letters to your Senators, send them to:
The Honorable (name of Senator)
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

o Send a Fax
If you would like to send a fax, call your Senators' offices (through the Capitol switchboard) and ask for their fax numbers (you can use either the attached sample
letter or the message box, below).

o Send an E-Mail
To send an e-mail to your Senators, simply go to, and click on "Contacting the Senate"; you can look your Senators up either alphabetically or by state. Unfortunately, not all Members of Congress have e-mail addresses.


o Throughout his career, Judge Alito has made statements and issued opinions in direct opposition to the core beliefs and goals of the NAACP.

o During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Judge Alito did not address these concerns, and in fact his reluctance to answer questions about his membership in a group whose goal was to exclude women and minorities from Princeton, his alma mater, only solidified the NAACP opposition to the nomination.

o The NAACP's opposition is based on a thorough investigation into his past writings and actions first as an attorney with the Reagan Administration then as a Circuit Court judge.

o During his career Judge Alito has spoken or written against such core NAACP values as voting rights, affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws and police brutality.

o The importance of the seat Judge Alito has been nominated for cannot be understated; this is a lifetime position to fill a vacancy created by a judge who is often considered the "swing vote" on many issues important to racial and ethnic minorities.

(Sample Letter)


The Honorable ___________________________
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Senator _______________________________;

As your constituent, I urge you, in the strongest terms possible, to oppose the nomination of Samuel Alito to serve as Associate Justice to the US Supreme Court. During his career Judge Alito has spoken or written against such core values as voting rights, affirmative action, anti-discrimination laws and police brutality. Furthermore, he did not adequately address these concerns during the confirmation hearings, and was particularly vague when it came to these issues.

Should he be confirmed to the US Supreme Court to replace Sandra Day O' Conner, I also have strong concerns that Judge Alito will dramatically shift the balance of the court away from the middle and much more to the conservative end of the spectrum. I am certain that a careful review of his record, and of the written and oral statements and judicial decisions of the past will clearly lead you to determine, as I have, that Judge Alito is an inappropriate nominee for our Nation's highest court.

It is vitally important that the justices of the US Supreme Court be willing to interpret the Constitution in a manner that is fair and respectful of the rights of all Americans. Furthermore, it is your duty as my elected representative and as my voice in the United States Senate to insure that every Supreme Court nominee uphold my basic civil rights and civil liberties.

Thus, I am urging you again to oppose this nomination. Please contact me in the very near future to let me know what you are going to do on this matter and what I can do to help you make certain that the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans are protected.


(sign and print your name and
remember to include your address)
If you have any questions, call Hilary Shelton at the Washington Bureau at (202) 463-2940.
For more information, call your local NAACP branch or visit

1156 15th Street, Suite 915, Washington, DC 20005

Friday, January 13, 2006

Few Glimmers of How Conservative Judge Alito Is - New York Times

Few Glimmers of How Conservative Judge Alito Is - New York TimesJanuary 13, 2006
News Analysis
Few Glimmers of How Conservative Judge Alito Is

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 - In over 18 hours responding to some 700 questions at his Supreme Court confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. mostly described a methodical and incremental approach to the law rooted in no particular theory.

But to the extent Judge Alito claimed a judicial philosophy, it aligned him with the court's two most conservative members, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Judge Alito completed his testimony Thursday amid substantial opposition from Democrats, who indicated they would not support him, but saw little chance of blocking his confirmation.

On one of the few occasions Judge Alito spoke about his general approach to the law, he embraced a mode of constitutional interpretation, originalism, often associated with Justices Scalia and Thomas.

"In interpreting the Constitution," Judge Alito said Wednesday, "I think we should look to the text of the Constitution, and we should look to the meaning that someone would have taken from the text of the Constitution at the time of its adoption."

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., by contrast, described a more eclectic and dynamic approach to constitutional interpretation at his confirmation hearings in September. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Judge Alito will replace if he is confirmed, has also embraced a variety of approaches.

"Judge Alito sounded less amenable to constitutional evolution than Roberts," said Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago who studied Judge Alito's dissenting opinions at the request of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, but has taken no position on the nomination. "He is someone who is more likely to vote with Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas than Justice O'Connor."

On more specific constitutional issues, Judge Alito affirmed what Jack M. Balkin, a law professor at Yale, calls the modern catechism necessary for confirmation. Judge Alito said that Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 school desegregation case, was correctly decided. He said the Constitution protected privacy in at least some aspects of procreation, endorsing two decisions giving constitutional protection to the use of contraceptives. And he said the principle of one person one vote is required by the Constitution.

Having agreed with those cases and propositions, though, Judge Alito largely drew the line at saying more, notably about abortion. He justified his approach by saying the first set of cases were unlikely to come before the Supreme Court and that other cases might well be revisited by it.

But he did provide some hints on an array of other issues. He rejected, for instance, the use of foreign legal materials in interpreting the Constitution. He said he had favored allowing cameras in the courtroom in his own court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia.

On Thursday, he said he "can't think of a reason why" Congress could not outlaw employment discrimination against gay men and lesbians. And he said that a diverse student body was an important value in education.

It was the topics Judge Alito failed to discuss that concerned some scholars the most. Some questioned whether he had really drawn a principled line between the cases he viewed as finally settled, and so could discuss, and those he considered still to be in play.

Some of the cases and principles Judge Alito would discuss, said Vikram Amar, a professor at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, could "very easily come up over the next decade in the court, let alone the next three decades." Among the examples Mr. Amar gave were the use of foreign legal materials, a 1952 opinion on presidential power and diversity in education.

What Judge Alito would and would not discuss was telling, said Mark Tushnet, a law professor at Georgetown.

"You can infer from the areas in which he is willing to talk and not willing to talk," said Mr. Tushnet, who opposes Judge Alito's confirmation. "The only inference you can draw is that he doesn't agree with the abortion decisions."

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, asked Judge Alito on Thursday whether he shared the aggressive views of executive power discussed in a recent book by John Yoo, an architect and forceful advocate of the Bush administration's legal strategy in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Judge Alito said he had not read the book, "The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11." But some of Judge Alito's answers suggested that he would not take as hard a line as Professor Yoo, who now teaches law at the University of California, Berkeley.

Notably, Judge Alito endorsed a 1952 concurring opinion by Justice Robert H. Jackson rejecting President Harry S. Truman's assertion that he had the inherent constitutional authority to seize steel mills during the Korean War. The opinion, in Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company v. Sawyer, set out a three-part sliding scale for considering clashes between presidential power and Congressional authority.

The president's power is at its "lowest ebb," Justice Jackson wrote, when Congress has forbidden a particular action. The administration has conceded that its domestic surveillance program violated the terms of a 1978 law requiring court approval for some intelligence gathering, arguing that it had authority to conduct the surveillance without warrants under both the Constitution and a Sept. 18, 2001, Congressional authorization to use military force.

In an interview Thursday, Professor Yoo said the balancing called for by the Jackson concurrence did not apply to the surveillance program.

"The Jackson concurrence applies to domestic matters which are outside the theater of combat," he said. The surveillance program, by contrast, is partly international, he said, and the theater of combat after the Sept. 11 attacks encompasses the United States.

Noah Feldman, a law professor at New York University, said the differing interpretations of the applicability of the Jackson concurrence were significant.

"It's very striking," Professor Feldman said, "that both Judge Alito and Chief Justice Roberts said they would apply Justice Jackson's concurrence in the steel seizure case, because it reflects a view of presidential power that is not unbounded and is not the strongest version of the unitary executive theory. If you were truly to follow Youngstown, you can't embrace the strongest version of the unitary executive theory."

Judge Alito endorsed a version of the unitary executive theory in a 2000 speech to the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. The theory can mean, in its weaker form, that the president has full authority over the executive branch. In its stronger form, the theory means that there are areas of executive power into which Congress and the courts are powerless to intrude.

Professor Yoo said that what he called "the robust version" of the theory could conclusively answer the legal controversy over the surveillance program. "If gathering intelligence about the enemy is executive, then it can't be taken away" by Congress or the courts, he said.

At the hearings, Judge Alito embraced the weaker version. For Judge Alito, said Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine who served in the Justice Department in the Reagan administration, the unitary executive theory "goes more to the direction of fully executive subordinates than any type of claim of executive supremacy, which Alito has rightly denied."

If anything, Professor Kmiec continued, Judge Alito "has an understanding of executive power that is so well within the mainstream that Alexander Hamilton might think it timid."

Judith Resnik, a law professor at Yale, disagreed.

"He's fabulous at tautology," Professor Resnik said of Judge Alito. "He says the president is not above the law. He says the president can only do what the Constitution allows him to do. But he doesn't say what the Constitution allows."

"One of the absolutely essential questions of American law at the moment is the ability of any human being to call the executive branch to account before the courts," she added, noting that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor had affirmed that principle in a 2004 opinion allowing an American citizen to challenge his detention by the military. "That possibility must be available. What we have not heard from Judge Alito is a commitment to that point of view."

Judge Alito did indicate that he would take a relatively deferential view of Congressional power. "I would certainly approach the question of determining whether an act of Congress is constitutional with a heavy presumption in favor of the constitutionality of what Congress has done," he said on Thursday.

In the end, Judge Alito drew the line in what he would discuss almost exactly where Chief Justice Roberts had in his confirmation hearings in September. The similarity of the two men's positions should not be surprising, Professor Yoo said, as they were both government lawyers when Edwin Meese III served in the White House and the Justice Department in the Reagan administration.

"It shows the fruition," Professor Yoo said, "of the Reagan-Meese approach of grooming young lawyers in the 1980's who could do well at hearings 20 years later."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Presidential Power Has Limits, Alito Tells Senators - New York Times

Presidential Power Has Limits, Alito Tells Senators - New York TimesJanuary 10, 2006
Presidential Power Has Limits, Alito Tells Senators

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 - Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. said today that he agreed with the principle that a president does not have "a blank check" in terms of power, especially during wartime.

"The Constitution applies in times of peace and war," President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court said in the first round of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The Bill of Rights applies at all times."

In the second day of hearings on his nomination to the United States Supreme Court, Judge Alito said preservation of individual rights is particularly important in wartime because that is when the temptation to abuse liberties in the name of national security is most dangerous.

Declaring that the Constitution "protects the rights of Americans in all circumstances," Judge Alito was addressing an issue that his critics have called very troubling: whether he would too easily embrace the concept of far-reaching executive power, as his critics say the judge's paper trail seems to indicate.

In agreeing that the president does not have "a blank check" in terms of power, even in wartime emergencies, Judge Alito embraced the language of the justice he would succeed, Sandra Day O'Connor, who so wrote in a decision that upheld the right of a prisoner held as an "enemy combatant" to use the courts to challenge the basis of his confinement.

The judge also testified that he would approach abortion-related cases with an open mind, that the Constitution is "a living thing in the sense that matters" in that its underlying principles do not change even as time and circumstances do, and that the views he espoused as a young lawyer in the administration of President Ronald Reagan - "a line attorney," as he put it - are by no means a preview of how he would rule as a justice.

"My general philosophy is that the judiciary has a very important role to play," Judge Alito said, adding that he saw it as "a limited role" that should never encroach on the duties of lawmakers.

Some of the sharpest questions about the limits of presidential power came from Senators Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the panel's ranking Democrat, and Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Mr. Leahy asked the nominee whether he agreed with President Bush's interpretation of the powers conferred on him by Congress after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Judge Alito replied cautiously, asserting that "difficult and important and complex questions" attend the issue.

But, the nominee said: "No person in this country is above the law. That includes the president and the Supreme Court."

Mr. Leahy was probing the judge's views on the electronic surveillance undertaken by the National Security Agency in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Apparently not satisfied with the nominee's replies, Mr. Leahy said half-jokingly, "Let's take an easy one." Could the president authorize someone to murder a person, the senator asked.

Of course not, Judge Alito said. "The president has to follow the Constitution and the laws," he said.

Judge Alito, who has sat on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, for 15 years, said repeatedly that precedent in the law deserves great respect, and should be overturned only with great care. He was responding to questions from Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who heads the panel, who is an abortion-rights supporter and has expressed concerns that the Supreme Court might one day consider undoing its 1973 ruling that established a woman's right to choose.

Precedent is "not an inexorable command," but it deserves great respect, Judge Alito said. He was referring not just to abortion issues but to a defendant's protection against police interrogations, as set forth in the 1966 Miranda ruling.

Senator Kennedy was skeptical about the nominee's dedication to the rights of ordinary citizens. "Time and again, even in routine matters involving average Americans, you give enormous, almost total deference to the exercise of governmental power," Mr. Kennedy said, citing a case in which the judge upheld the validity of a warrant in which a 10-year-old girl was strip searched.

Judge Alito answered in a calm, precise tone. "Senator, I wasn't happy that a 10-year-old girl was searched," he said, emphasizing that he had felt compelled to rule as he did, on a highly technical issue, because he felt the law required him to do so.

A bit later, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, offered the nominee a chance to express himself. "Judge Alito, would you have any difficulty ruling against the executive branch of the federal government if it were to overstep its authority in the Constitution?" Mr. Grassley asked.

"I would not, Senator," the judge replied. "I would judge the cases as they come up."

Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, asked him if he still agreed that Judge Robert H. Bork, who was rejected by the Senate in 1987, was an outstanding nominee, as he wrote at the time. "He was and is an accomplished scholar," Judge Alito said of Judge Bork, emphasizing that he still does not agree with him on everything.

Judge Alito, who as a Reagan administration lawyer wrote that he disagreed with some of the Supreme Court rulings during the time of Chief Justice Earl Warren, indicated that he agreed with what was perhaps the most important decision of all: the 1954 ruling that outlawed public school segregation. The judge said that ruling corrected an erroneous interpretation of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause that had persisted for more than a half-century.

Mr. Kohl was openly skeptical when the nominee said he could not say whether the Supreme Court was right to take the case of Bush v. Gore, in which it effectively handed the 2000 election to George Bush. "I really don't know," Judge Alito said, insisting that he had not studied the case as carefully as he would have if he had had to consider it.

"That was a huge case," Mr. Kohl said with a smile, adding that he found it hard to believe that the judge had not thought about the case a good deal.

Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, told Judge Alito his nomination to succeed Justice O'Connor "goes beyond you."

"It goes to whether or not your taking her seat will alter the constitutional framework of this country by shifting the balance, 5 to 4, 4 to 5, one way or another," the senator said, alluding to Justice O'Connor's role as a swing vote over the years.

The early assessment of the nominee's performance was split along party lines.

Three of the committee's 10 Republicans commented during a recess that the nominee had acquitted himself well. "It's clear to me that he is willing to be very forthright, that he appears to view his role as a judge very seriously and totally different from his position as a lawyer, divorcing any of his own personal views," said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, who was joined by Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama and John Cornyn of Texas.

But Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat on the committee, disagreed. "I don't think we've heard anything from the nominee except statements that every nominee would make," Mr. Schumer said, adding that he hopes the judge will be more specific.

Senators Leahy and Kohl and Senator Russell D. Feingold, also of Wisconsin, were the three Democrats who voted for the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., who won the committee's approval by 13 to 5 on his way to easy confirmation as chief justice.

Senator Leahy seemed concerned today about Judge Alito's membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, an organization that the senator said had resisted the admission of women and members of minority groups to the elite Ivy League institution. The nominee cited his membership in the group when he was applying for a promotion in the Reagan administration in 1985.

"Why in heaven's name, judge?" Mr. Leahy asked, seemingly incredulous that a man with Judge Alito's immigrant heritage and working-class background could have belonged to such a group.

The judge said that he had never active in the group's activities and that he had belonged chiefly because he disagreed with campus hostility to the Reserve Officers Training Corps in that Vietnam War era.

That back and forth afforded Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, a chance to serve up a friendly question. The senator asked the nominee whether he was against women and minority groups in college.

"Absolutely not, senator, no," the judge replied.

"Tough question, Orrin," Senator Leahy interjected with a chuckle. "Tough question."

"Good question, though," Mr. Hatch retorted.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

NPR : History as a Guide to Alito's Nomination Hearings

NPR : History as a Guide to Alito's Nomination HearingsHistory as a Guide to Alito's Nomination Hearings

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... by Nina Totenberg

All Things Considered, January 2, 2006 · On the eve of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, Nina Totenberg looks back at past hearings, including the recent hearings for Chief Justice John Roberts.