Report: Senate Keeps Women and Minorities off of Federal Benches

June 02, 2011

Earlier this week, the advocacy group People for the American Way released a report on the Senate’s record of blocking President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations. The report reached a shocking conclusion:

Since President Obama took office, every district court nominee with party-line opposition from Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans has been a woman or person of color. In addition, every public announcement of opposition to nominees from home-state Republican senators involves women or people of color. … Not a single Caucasian, male nominee elicited such opposition.

This is stunning and outrageous. AAUW pays close attention to judicial nominations because so many of our fundamental rights and liberties have been established and are protected by the federal courts, state and U.S. Supreme Court precedents, and executive-branch enforcement efforts. Not only do our courts need judges who will uphold our constitutional values of liberty, equality, and justice for all, they also need judges that reflect America’s diversity. This is the best way to ensure that the clock is not turned back on decades of progress for men and women of all races.

While the Senate’s advise-and-consent role in assessing judicial nominees is a fundamental part of our system of checks and balances and an important vehicle for preserving fair and balanced judicial and executive branches, the PFAW report reveals what looks like a pattern of discrimination against nominees who are women or people of color.

The Senate’s recent failure to confirm Professor Goodwin Liu, who was nominated to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, is a recent example. Liu, who is Taiwanese American, was accused on the Senate floor of wanting to turn America into “Communist-run China.” AAUW supported Liu’s nomination and was disappointed when the cloture vote on his nomination did not muster the 60 votes required to overcome that procedural hurdle, failing 52-43 on a near-party-line vote. Liu has since withdrawn his nomination.

The courts are extremely important to safeguarding Americans’ rights, and blocking only certain types of nominees seems to violate their rights to equal treatment. AAUW is extremely upset by the pattern of discrimination revealed by the PFAW report, and we will redouble our efforts to fight for the fair treatment of women and minority nominees. Our commitment to equity demands nothing less. To learn more about AAUW’s work on this issue, please visit our position page.

Beth Scott By:   |   June 02, 2011

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