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NAACP labels Roberts ‘hostile’

Kelly Brewington The Baltimore Sun

Judge John G. Roberts Jr. has been “hostile” to civil rights and, if approved to the Supreme Court, he would move to undo decades of hard-fought civil right gains, according to a report released Wednesday by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

In an analysis of documents from the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the report contends that Roberts helped shape anti-civil rights policies during the Reagan administration concerning voting rights, affirmative action, housing and employment discrimination.

“We call it an era of retrenchment,” said Leslie Proll, director of the Legal Defense Fund’s Washington office. “I think the civil rights community collectively has many negative memories. And we find out now that John Roberts was deeply planted right in the middle of much of that activity.”

The report was released the same day that a coalition of women’s rights groups and civil rights advocates formally announced their opposition to Roberts’ appointment to the court in a news conference in front of the Capitol. They called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask thorough questions of Roberts when confirmation hearings start Tuesday.

The Legal Defense Fund’s report paints a picture of Roberts as more than an adviser to Attorney General William French Smith on civil rights policies, but as an activist who narrowly interpreted civil rights law.

In 1982, during congressional hearings on amending the Voting Rights Act to protect against diluting the black vote, Roberts wrote 25 memos arguing the administration’s opposition to such an amendment, the report said.

Roberts wrote that affirmative action should only be applied on an individual basis, not as a policy of institutions or the government, the report stated. He also criticized a U.S. Civil Rights Commission report outlining the need for affirmative action and filed briefs opposing affirmative action in his later career in private practice, the report said.

In addition, the report quotes a memo Roberts wrote to Smith, concerning a dispute over the Labor Department’s support of affirmative action, in which he states: “Under our view of the law it is not enough to say that blacks and women have been historically discriminated against as groups and are therefore entitled to special preferences.”

Ted Shaw, Legal Defense Fund president, said he applied the same standards to Roberts as he would any nominee: the candidate should be open-mined and not ideological, regardless of personal beliefs.

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