- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The head of the NAACP says the exuberant response of the “extreme right” to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. gives him concerns about the pick, but he said the group will not make a rash decision to oppose it.

“The NAACP has every obligation to be thorough and not overreact or make a decision without all the information, but I sense this is a nomination that may not be consistent with the America Rosa Parks sat down to create,” said Bruce S. Gordon, new president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The group has just begun to look at Judge Alito’s credentials, and an NAACP official said it is troubled by his membership in the Federalist Society and by his rulings in the areas of police brutality, employment law and gender equality, particularly with respect to federal Title IX rules.

Mr. Gordon said he was “upset” that the nation’s oldest civil rights group was not asked by the White House to weigh in on Judge Alito before his nomination.

He raised his concerns yesterday at a $250-a-plate luncheon in his honor, where talk of the Supreme Court nomination was touched off by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Dean said Judge Alito had a questionable judicial record on civil rights, highlighting Riley v. Taylor — a 2001 death-penalty case in Essex County, Del.

The defendant was granted consideration for a new trial by a majority of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the basis that the prosecution willfully eliminated black jurors to achieve an all-white jury in four separate trials.

Judge Alito dissented in the case.

“I can’t recall any court ruling that would approve of an all-white jury under these circumstances,” Mr. Dean said.

However, in the same vein, Judge Alito wrote an opinion for the court in 2003 in Williams v. Price that a black state prisoner had the right to have his trial reviewed because the state court ignored witness testimony that one of the jurors uttered racist remarks about blacks during an encounter after the trial had ended.

The Supreme Court discussion overshadowed an overall joyous occasion for the NAACP, in which both Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and Mr. Dean received warm applause from those in attendance.

Mr. Gordon said he has been working tirelessly to correct the long-standing rift between President Bush and the NAACP, a relationship marked by charges of snubbing and of extreme partisanship.

He met with the president in September, something his predecessor, Kweisi Mfume, never did, to discuss the recovery effort from Hurricane Katrina.

The new leader said that despite his “preliminary” assessment of Judge Alito, he still thinks the group must put politics aside and engage both political parties on civil rights, economic equality and diversity in all facets of American life.

Mr. Mehlman said he agreed with Mr. Gordon’s message and mission, saying, “I think Bruce has laid out an impressive vision, because I have found that economic equality often becomes the chief enabler of social equality.”



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