Stereotypes and Filibusters; Labels Don't Stick to Janice Rogers Brown

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 9, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Stereotypes and Filibusters; Labels Don't Stick to Janice Rogers Brown


Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The judicial confirmation process has become so savage in recent years that it would take a brave nominee to offer himself or herself for consideration. California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, for example, has been charged in a recent NAACP "Action Alert" with being "hostile to civil rights" and "having extreme right-wing views."

I do not agree with all of Justice Brown's opinions, but I write this to show how prejudicially selective the prosecution of her is by the Democrats, the NAACP, People For the American Way and her other critics. She was filibustered in the last Congress, and may be again, now having been sent to the floor on a 10-to-8 party-line vote by the Judiciary Committee.

To my knowledge, not one of her attackers has mentioned the fact that in the case of People v. McKay (2002), Justice Brown was the only California Supreme Court justice to instruct her colleagues on the different standards some police use when they search cars whose drivers are black: "There is an undeniable correlation between law enforcement stop-and-search practices and the racial characteristics of the driver.... The practice is so prevalent, it has a name: 'Driving While Black.' "

The three-page "Action Alert" I received from the NAACP ignored that opinion, in which Brown added that while racial-profiling is "more subtle, more diffuse and less visible" than racial segregation, "it is only a difference of degree. If harm is still being done to people because they are black, or brown, or poor, the oppression is not lessened by the absence of television cameras." This is right-wing extremism?

An April 28 lead New York Times editorial accuses Justice Brown of being "a consistent enemy of minorities" who is "an extreme right-wing ideologue." Sen. Ted Kennedy has accused Justice Brown of hostility not only to civil rights but also to "consumer protection." But in Hartwell Corp. v. Superior Court (2002), she declared that water utilities could be sued for having harmful chemicals in the water that result in injuries to residents of the state who drink that water.

Also in People ex rel. Lungren v. Superior Court (1996), Justice Brown affirmed the authority of California's attorney general to haul into court faucet manufacturers who include lead in their faucets.

Another charge by the NAACP in its "Action Alert" is that Justice Brown dissented from "a ruling that an injunction against the use of racially offensive epithets in the workplace did not violate the First Amendment." I know this case, Aguilar v. Avis Rent A Car System Inc., well, having covered it from the beginning and interviewed lawyers on both sides.

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