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The PJ Tatler

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

November 17, 2011 - 1:56 pm

My fellow PJ Media contributor Christian Adams was recently at Tulane University’s School of Law in New Orleans. He was debating a Tulane law professor about the failure of the Obama Justice Department to enforce the National Voter Registration Act’s requirement that states maintain the accuracy of their voter registration rolls by periodically removing the names of voters who have moved or died. During the question-and-answer period , Christian was confronted by a student who was upset that there had been no meaningful discussion of what he claimed was the biggest group of disenfranchised voters – felons.

It turns out that the upset student, Bruce Reilly, a first-year at Tulane, had a very personal reason for asking the question: he had pled guilty to second-degree murder and robbery and served 12 years in prison. When he was 20 years old, Reilly beat and stabbed to death a 58-year old English professor at Community College of Rhode island, capping off his crime by stealing the professor’s car, wallet, and credit cards. In short, he is a felon (the term ex-felon should be reserved for those with a full pardon, not those who have merely served the prison portion of their sentences).

The fact that Reilly is an admitted student in Tulane’s law school should be at least curious and potentially worrisome to the students, alumni and supporters of that school. The Louisiana Bar, like all other states, requires proof of good moral character and fitness to be admitted to the bar, a requirement that almost always excludes felons – particularly those who have been convicted of a violent crime as heinous as Reilly’s. (The fact that he is out of prison after only 12 years when he murdered and robbed an older college professor doesn’t say a lot for Rhode Island’s criminal justice system, either.) It is next to impossible for him to become a licensed attorney even if he graduates, as Tulane University officials must surely know.

As at least one student complained to The Times-Picayune, Reilly is taking up “another’s space in the law school even though he may never be able to practice as a lawyer because of his conviction.” But it gets worse.

Reilly is attending Tulane on an NAACP scholarship and a Dean’s Merit Scholarship. The NAACP has made it very clear in its public statements and its litigation that it believes that the constitutional right of states under the Fourteenth Amendment to take away the right of felons to vote is “discriminatory” and “undermines the most fundamental aspect of American citizenship” (which the NAACP apparently thinks means being able to murder and vote at the same time).

Now, we know that the NAACP (and apparently the dean of Tulane) thinks it is appropriate to give a scholarship to a convicted killer who was quoted by The Times-Picayune as saying that he thought his biggest problem when he came to Tulane would “be the heat in New Orleans.” Supporters of the NAACP and Tulane University might want to give them some heat over their decisions in this particular case.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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