WASHINGTON – Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, told PJM that the nomination of Wendy Vitter, President Trump’s judicial pick for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, should be “withdrawn immediately.”
“She was on our radar screen, initially. I think more than anything it was shocking to witness her testimony last week and her inability to say that the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision was correctly decided – that overshadowed any past action. It gives us a clear indication of her frame of reference as it relates to discrimination in this country and her respect for well-settled Supreme Court decisions,” Johnson said on a conference call briefing Monday with other civil-rights leaders and advocates in Louisiana.
“As far as actions we are taking, along with many of our partners on the phone, is advocating very heartily through our membership base, to communicate with their senators to ask that Vitter’s nomination be withdrawn immediately and to oppose at all costs the appointment of Duncan to the court,” he added.
Johnson was referring to Vitter declining to comment on the Brown v. Board of Education decision during her Senate confirmation hearing when Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked if the landmark 1954 case that unanimously found school segregation unconstitutional had been correctly decided.
“I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” said Vitter, who is married to former Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter.
Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference, shared similar criticism of Vitter’s handling of Blumenthal’s question about the Brown decision.
“It’s shocking that in the year 2018, Ms. Vitter refused to say whether the Supreme Court, a unanimous Supreme Court, did the right thing when it struck down segregation and legalized apartheid in America’s schools,” she said.
Johnson said Vitter and Stuart Kyle Duncan, Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and former general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, are “some of the worst judicial picks we have seen, perhaps in the history of the federal court.”
Johnson described Duncan, who was lead counsel for Hobby Lobby in the store’s challenge against Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, as “dangerous” because of his record on voting rights and LGBTQ rights.
“He searches for opportunities to undermine civil rights laws as they currently exist. If there’s an opportunity to roll back civil rights, Duncan shows up,” he said. “Duncan’s record on voting rights could not be more threatening to voters of African-Americans, Latinos and other communities of color. He fought to keep intact the most restrictive voting suppression laws in the country.”
Madelyn Fireman, co-chair of the National Council of Jewish Women Louisiana State Policy Advocacy, said her organization strongly opposes Duncan’s nomination because he opposed the Affordable Care Act’s provision that required employers to offer healthcare plans that covered abortion services.
“The National Council of Jewish Women strongly opposes the nomination of Duncan and Vitter, and strongly urges Senators Cassidy and Kennedy to follow suit,” she said.
Fireman said Vitter has shown “hostility” toward “reproductive freedom” by opposing efforts to increase women’s access to contraception and abortion services. Fireman cited Vitter’s participation in a 2013 Louisiana Right to Life panel discussion titled “Abortion Hurts Women’s Health,” which linked birth control pills to cancer. She called for Vitter’s nomination to be withdrawn.
“Vitter also attended the 2015 March for Life with her husband, then-Senator David Vitter,” Fireman said on the call.