CBC opposes nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court and the Senate should too

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By U.S. Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) (Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus)

On January 31, President Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Gorsuch’s lifelong appointment to the court would have serious consequences for all Americans, but especially African Americans and vulnerable communities. Judge Gorsuch has displayed hostility to the rights of minorities, women, people with disabilities, and workers, which is why the Congressional Black Caucus submitted testimony recently opposing his nomination. His judicial record on race and related matters and constitutional and equal rights litigation does not merit our support or the support of the Senate.
All interpreters of the law should be committed to fairness and justice, not a specific legal philosophy of judicial interpretation. Judge Gorsuch’s commitment to “originalism,” or, interpreting the Constitution in a way that’s consistent with the intent of those who wrote it, often results in him ruling in favor of the big guy instead of the little guy, the strong instead of the weak, and the majority instead of minorities. From 2007 to 2016, Judge Gorsuch issued 14 published judgments related to employee discrimination cases. Nine of those decisions were in favor of the employer. We need a Supreme Court justice who will judge cases on the merits, not based on his or her personal philosophies.
For example, Judge Gorsuch believes that police officers should be granted qualified immunity, which prevents law enforcement and other government officials from being held accountable for the excessive use of force. In the case of Wilson v. City of Lafayette, Gorsuch decided that a police officer was entitled to qualified immunity from an excessive force claim arising from the use of a stun gun that ultimately killed a young man. In three other cases involving police accountability, Gorsuch ruled in favor of police searches of vehicles without a warrant, minimizing the Fourth Amendment protections against unauthorized search and seizure.

Judge Gorsuch’s ruling in police accountability cases are particularly troubling given the increasing number of shooting deaths of so many unarmed African Americans by the police, and recent Department of Justice investigations that have found that police departments across the country have had a “pattern and practice” of racial discrimination.
In addition to his poor judicial record on police accountability, Judge Gorsuch has a poor judicial record on workers’ rights. His record is one of supporting employers over employees, even in the case of employees with disabilities. In Hwang v. Kansas State University, Judge Gorsuch ruled that “showing up” for work is an essential job function and that the Rehabilitation Act should not be used as a safety net for employees who cannot work. This case focused on a professor employed by Kansas State University who was diagnosed with cancer, and, after treatments that weakened her immune system, requested an extension due to a flu outbreak on the campus. Judge Gorsuch denied her request and sided with the university, compromising her health and recovery. He has a similar record when it comes to reproductive rights. In two cases, he sided with companies that wanted to deny women reproductive healthcare.

The judicial branch has the power to interpret the laws of the land, and thus, impacts every American’s way of life. This is especially true for the highest court in the land. Because of the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court, African-Americans have been granted the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, women have been granted reproductive health rights, and workers have been granted safety and security from exploitative labor practices. Judge Gorsuch’s record in each of these areas raises concerns. His commitment to “originalism” also raises concerns. The Constitution is a living and breathing document that is meant to evolve with our society and it should be interpreted as such.
As the Senate evaluates Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record, it is imperative that Senators focus on consistency. Judge Gorsuch has consistently used the bench to protect corporations, and limit the rights of minorities, women, and workers. Consequently, the Congressional Black Caucus opposes his nomination and urges the Senate to do the same.
Congressman Richmond is the 25th Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and represents the 2nd District of Louisiana. On Twitter, follow the caucus at @OfficialCBC and follow Congressman Richmond at @RepRichmond.

U.S. Senators demand study on Federal advertising in Black-owned media

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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NJ Senator Corey Booker speaks on issue of Federal advertising

Five U.S. Senators have joined the fight for accountability in the federal government’s advertising practices – or lack thereof — when it comes to minority-owned news outlets. A letter penned by the senators demands that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the advertising habits of federal agencies.

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) each signed the letter.

In the new letter sent this month on United States Senate letterhead to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, a request is made that the GAO issue a report on federal advertising contracts and subcontracts with minority-owned publications, public relations firms, advertising agencies, and media companies.

“News outlets and media companies owned or published by people of color are critical to ensuring that diverse viewpoints are presented to the American people,” the letter stated. The letter continued: “As one of the largest advertisers in the United States, the federal government should play an active role in ensuring that minority-owned media outlets have fair opportunities to compete for and be awarded federal advertising contracts.”

Menendez said that contracting opportunities through the federal marketplace has proven to be a valuable way for firms to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Dr. Benjamin Chavis, the president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), applauded the new letter by the senators. He noted the joint effort between NNPA and the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP) in pushing for a new federal advertising study.

“The NNPA and NAHP thank Senators Booker, Schumer, Menendez, Hirono and Gillibrand for helping to push for this strategically important GAO inquiry,” Chavis said. “2017 should be the year of greater economic equity and parity with respect to more inclusiveness in the billions of dollars spent annually by government departments and agencies on advertising.”

Earlier this year, Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and many of her colleagues in the House formally requested an investigation into how federal government agencies spend advertising dollars.

Jonathan Sanchez, the associate publisher and chief operating officer of the East Los Angeles-based Eastern Group Publications, Inc., which boast a loyal readership of about 500,000 subscribers, the news is more than welcome. Earlier this year, after Norton’s letter, Sanchez said he was appreciative that action was finally being taken.

“I have been working on this issue for years and I am glad this is finally becoming a reality,” said Sanchez. Sanchez has supported efforts by NNPA and NAHP that calls lawmakers to sponsor a new report that will help determine why minority media companies have been excluded from the lucrative advertising deals government agencies have made with other news organizations.

Norton’s letter came a little more than one month after she held a press conference on Capitol Hill with leaders from the NNPA and NAHP. At that press conference, Norton called on the GAO to perform a new study and update a 2007 report that revealed government agencies spent $4.3 billion in advertising but just a pittance of that amount was spent with minority media publications.

The Congresswoman also secured the support of many others in the House of Representatives. Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, California Rep. Karen Bass, New York Rep. Yvette Clarke, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, Georgia Rep. John Lewis, and California Rep. Maxine Waters – all Democrats – were among those who signed Norton’s letter and called for action.

“We believe that this request is particularly timely, because GAO will be conducting an audit of spending by federal agencies on public relations and advertising,” Norton said. “We ask [the GAO] to take this opportunity to consider how much is spent with newspapers and other media companies that are owned by people of color and whose audiences are largely African-American or Hispanic.”

In 2007, GAO considered spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses by five agencies – the Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration – and found that just five percent of the $4.3 billion available for advertising campaigns went to minority-owned businesses.

Norton and others have asked for an update from the GAO as well as more accountability. The federal government is the largest advertiser in the nation and it plays an important role in supporting minority-focused publications that reach African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California.

“Historically, there has been a lack of adequate federal government funding granted to disadvantaged and minority-owned advertising agencies,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, (D-N.C.). “This issue shows the systemic problems that exists across numerous arenas in both the public and private sector.”