Supreme Court Nominations

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Declines to Endorse Kagan

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is declining to endorse Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing unanswered questions about her civil rights views.

The group’s executive director, Barbara Arnwine, said in a press release that the Lawyers’ Committee applauds the nomination of a woman with such an accomplished background. “However, key questions remain regarding her civil rights record that we had hoped would be answered during the confirmations hearings, but were not completely,” she said.

The group had supported Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination. It notes that she and other recent nominees had more of a paper trail because they had been judges.

In a report (PDF) released today, the Lawyers’ Committee says that, on several occasions, Kagan has “shown considerable sensitivity to civil rights concerns” with respect to discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. But she has “at times indicated some hesitation” in supporting civil rights remedies for racial discrimination, the report says.

As a White House policy adviser in the Clinton White House, Kagan indicated she would support narrowly tailored affirmative action “but she indicated a preference for race-neutral policies as the strategy most likely to win acceptance and achieve equality for minorities,” the report says.

Also unclear, according to the report, are Kagan’s views on other serious problems confronting minorities, including lack of educational opportunity, employment discrimination, home foreclosures, discrimination in criminal justice, and mass incarceration.

The Washington Post noted in an article late last month that several civil rights organizations were struggling with decisions on whether to endorse Kagan. The prominent black lawyers group, the National Bar Association, declined to endorse Kagan and gave her only a “lukewarm rating,” the story says.

“Decades after the height of the civil rights movement, questions involving race and ethnicity persist as a recurrent theme before the Supreme Court,” the Washington Post writes, “and attitudes on those issues remain a significant prism through which nominees are evaluated by those on the left and the right.”

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