Rights groups in the United States have sharply criticised the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, warning that the appointment of President Donald Trump’s pick would reverse hard-earned civil liberties for African Americans, women and other groups.
Trump on Monday chose Kavanaugh, who sits on the Federal Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
If confirmed by the Senate, the 53-year old Kavanaugh is poised to remain on the bench for years to come, cementing conservative control in the country’s top judicial body.
Currently, the court has a 5-4 majority of conservative justices, with 81-year-old Kennedy – who announced his retirement late last month – having been the crucial swing vote on a number of important decisions. In theory, the court can vote either way on any issue, but a Kavanaugh confirmation would swing it more consistently to the right.
“With a Justice Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, we could see reversals of hard-won gains securing equal opportunity in education, employment and housing,” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said in a statement.
“We could see further exclusion of communities of color from participation in our democracy. We could see racism continue to flourish within the criminal justice system,” the group, the US’ largest organisation promoting the civil rights of African Americans, added.
“We have a president whose statements and policies are rooted in racism. We have an administration reversing civil and human rights at every turn. We have one justice and dozens of judges appointed because of their proven hostility to civil rights.”
Trump’s legal troubles
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella coalition of more than 200 civil rights organisations in the US, likened Kavanaugh to Trump, a property tycoon, saying “he would protect the rights of the wealthy and powerful over the rights of all”.
Gupta argued that the president made his choice with his legal troubles in mind and that someone like Kavanaugh would eventually protect him against Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into alleged collusion between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia.
“Kavanaugh has said that a sitting president should not be criminally indicted, no matter what evidence of wrongdoing is uncovered,” Gupta said in a statement.
In a teleconference on Tuesday with reporters, Al Sharpton, a civil rights and activist founder of the National Action Network, a leading civil rights organisation in the US, accused the Republican-controlled Senate of “double standards”.
In 2016, Republicans led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel managed to hold off a hearing for then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Chief Judge Merrick Garland, for nearly a year, saying that Obama’s successor should be the one to make the choice.
For its part, the NAACP vowed to fight Kavanaugh’s nomination, saying the confirmation process should be postponed until after the election of a new Senate in November’s mid-term elections.
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, told Al Jazeera that his organisation’s immediate call of action would be to “have its members across the US express their views to senators in their states and urge them to oppose this nomination”.
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, meanwhile accused the Trump administration of being relentless in its efforts to reverse civil rights legislation that affords protection to women.
Also speaking in the media teleconference, Clarke highlighted the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling that legalised abortion in the US.
“Trump has been unequivocal that he intends to appoint a justice who will overturn Roe v Wade,” said Clarke.
“Justice Kavanaugh is prepared to carry forth Trump’s agenda,” she added, and “gut the Affordable Care Act”, referring to Obama’s healthcare law, widely known as Obamacare.
Muslim American civil rights groups also expressed concern that Kavanaugh’s nomination will embolden the Trump administration to carry on with its hostility towards Muslims and immigrants.
Last month, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision to uphold Trump’s controversial order to block the entry of most people from several Muslim-majority countries into the US.
During his presidential campaign, Trump had called for “total and complete” block on Muslims entering the US.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that the Senate must grill Kavanaugh on his views on civil rights and presidential powers.
“Because of Donald Trump’s openly Islamophobic, white supremacist and racist views and policies targeting minority and immigrant communities, it is incumbent upon the Senate to question Mr Kavanaugh about his opinions on the protection of civil rights, religious freedom and the rights of immigrants,” he said.
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