- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

The liberal advocacy group People For the American Way has chosen a former civil rights lawyer to become its next president, after a period of massive growth for the organization.

Kathryn Kolbert, a civil rights lawyer and the executive producer of the National Public Radio’s legal program “Justice Talking,” will succeed Ralph G. Neas as president of PFAW. The group’s membership and support grew from 275,000 to more than 1 million in Mr. Neas’ eight years, according to the organization’s Web site.

“I look forward to being a strong voice for civil liberties in the coming years and continuing growth at People For the American Way,” Miss Kolbert said.

Miss Kolbert said her first priority after taking office next month is to address Supreme Court decisions regarding civil liberties.

The current presidential election season highlights the “stark differences” between the Republicans and Democrats on the types of judges that the candidates would nominate, she said.

Republicans usually nominate judges who determine civil rights cases according to a strict interpretation of the Constitution, while Democrats typically nominate justices who expand civil rights through a broad interpretation of the Constitution, she said.

Miss Kolbert said she wants to preserve a “Supreme Court that will not roll back civil liberties that we hold dear,” adding that President Bush’s appointments of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court have contributed to rulings that have reduced civil rights for women, minorities and defendants in criminal cases.

She mentioned a 2007 ruling in which the court rejected by a 5-4 vote affirmative-action programs in two schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle but did not eliminate race as a permissible factor in student placement programs.

M. Edward Whelan III, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative organization that approaches public policy issues from a Judeo-Christian perspective, disagrees that the Supreme Court is reducing civil rights.

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