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OPINION

Thompson: Black GOP unhappy with Obama’s SCOTUS pick

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

President Barack Obama’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court is not only facing opposition from congressional Republican leaders, who have vowed to deny Merrick Garland a hearing, but African-American members of the GOP are also taking issue with the nomination.

Detroit GOP member Kerry Jackson, who has been a practicing attorney for 20 years and was appointed a magistrate of the 36th District Court by former Republican Gov. John Engler, said he’s disappointed the president has yet to name an African-American to the top court.

“I think it is a slap in the face that the president did not pick a black male or female for the Supreme Court,” Jackson said. “I would have preferred to see an African-American moderate Republican who is in their 50s chosen to replace Antonin Scalia. That should be the gold standard.”

He added that “the absence of African-American appointments in judicial positions like the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, especially in Chicago, which is my hometown, says a lot about the Obama administration. In Michigan, under Engler there was no shortage of African-Americans as judges.”

Obama, who recently nominated Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace Scalia, told students and faculty on April 7 at the University of Chicago Law School that his nominee is qualified to get a hearing.

“It is uniformly viewed by not just Democrats but also Republicans … that he (Garland) is as good of a judge as we have in this country right now,” said Obama, a former law professor at the school. “He’s fair, he’s smart, he’s objective, he’s a consensus builder, he shows judicial restraint, he’s appreciative of the unique role of the court, but also respectful of the other branches of government.”

However Stacy Washington, a member of a Washington-based Republican think tank Project 21, said she would have preferred if Obama had nominated someone who will reflect the intent and purpose of the Founding Fathers.

“I would like to see a nominee that has a record of embracing a strict interpretation of the Constitution and a disdain for making new law,” Washington said. “A judicial nominee with a traditional family viewpoint to include a complete understanding of the purpose of the Bill of Rights and each amendment must be protected, instead of a desire to erode the alienable rights of Americans by creating new victimhood categories.”

Washington said her choice for the court would have been Janice Rogers Brown, another member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit who is a black conservative.

“The president could have nominated Brown because she has an unyielding belief in an unfettered free market. If he had nominated her the GOP-controlled Senate would be compelled to approve,” Washington said.

But Obama in 2005, while serving in the U.S. Senate opposed Brown’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the district, calling her an activist who happens to be a judge.

“It is a pretty easy observation to make when you look at her judicial decisions. While some judges tend to favor an activist interpretation of the law and others tend to believe in a restrained interpretation of the law providing great deference to the Legislature, Justice Brown tends to favor whatever interpretation leads her to the very same ideological conclusions every single time,” Obama said June 8, 2005, from the the Senate floor.

In the wake of Scalia’s death Democrats hit the talk show circuit arguing that Obama should exercise his constitutional responsibility to name a nominee against the Republican position that the president should not make such critical appointment in his last year office.

“The president should simply admit that he never believed in election year judicial appointments and expects not to have his nominee confirmed,” Washington said.

Horace Cooper, co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board, said the opposition to the presidential SCOTUS appointment is not an aberration.

“Historically as well as in modern times there has been a practice of not nominating and confirming a nominee in the final year of the presidency,” Cooper said. “One of the most vivid examples of this was the filibuster of Abe Fortas in the election year of 1968. Fortas was nominated by (Lyndon) Johnson and Senate Democrats refused to hold a vote on Fortas, deciding that they would instead await the outcome of the presidential election that was eventually won by (Richard) Nixon.”

Cooper and other GOP members want to tip the balance of judicial leanings in the High Court since Scalia’s death.

“A justice along the lines of (Clarence) Thomas and Scalia would see to it that the Constitution is interpreted to protect the specific and identified rights and privileges it guarantees rather than ignoring those in favor of newly created ones,” Cooper said.

During his University of Chicago speech, Obama bemoaned the vacancy on the court, stating that all decisions ending up 4-4 will make people “become more and more cynical about decisions that are coming down from the court.”

bankole@bankolethompson.com

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” on Super Station 910AM at noon Fridays. His column appears Thursdays.