Trump nominee dodges question on segregation

During a confirmation hearing, judicial nominee Wendy Vitter refused to say whether she agreed with the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that struck down school segregation.

Posted: Apr 14, 2018 11:39 AM
Updated: Apr 14, 2018 11:43 AM

Wendy Vitter, one of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees, refused on Wednesday to say whether a landmark civil rights opinion was correctly decided, triggering outrage and renewed criticism of the President's efforts to reshape the judiciary.

At issue was Brown v. the Board of Education -- a seminal opinion that held that state laws requiring separate but equal schools violated the Constitution.

"I don't mean to be coy," Vitter, who is up for a seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said at her confirmation hearing, "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."

Vitter -- who is the General Counsel of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and is married to former Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who was implicated in the sex scandal concerning the so called "DC Madam" back in 2007 -- emphasized that, if confirmed, she'd set aside "personal, religious or political views" and she would be bound by Supreme Court precedent.

As the Twitterverse lit up with progressive fury, a few were quick to point out that Vitter, is not alone in the sentiment that nominees should not offer up their personal thoughts on decided cases.

But Brown v. Board of Education?

"It's a big deal if someone wants to be a judge, charged with dispensing equal justice for all, can't commit herself to the basic principle that the Constitution prohibits segregation designed to place a 'badge of inferiority' on an entire group of people based on the color of their skin," said Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center.

Kristine Lucius, of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, called Vitter's testimony "shocking." Lucius is no fan of other aspects of Vitter's record -- including on the subject of abortion -- and has urged the Senate to reject the nomination.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who launched the inquiry, often poses similar questions during Senate Judiciary hearings. Nominees -- asked about Brown and other landmark cases -- don't always have stock answers.

At times, other nominees -- even for the Supreme Court -- have declined to comment out of a fear of infecting the judicial process.

As Vitter said, there is a fear of a "slippery slope " that impartiality will be questioned.

Just last month, for instance, John B. Nalbandian, up for a seat on the Sixth Circuit, told Blumenthal that he thought that Brown was correctly decided and said he felt comfortable commenting upon it because it was a "accepted" and a "longstanding" precedent.

But he wouldn't talk about Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court abortion opinion. And he said he thought it was "inappropriate" to go down a list of Supreme Court opinions and express his opinions on whether they were correctly decided.

"I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment," he said, but added that as a circuit court nominee, he would be faithful to precedent.

But others, like Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, didn't hesitate to say Brown was correctly decided.

Blumenthal asked the same question of Gorsuch during his confirmation hearing in 2017.

"Brown v. Board of Education," Gorsuch said, "was a correct application of law of precedent."

"There is no daylight," the future justice said.

In his own confirmation hearing, Roberts was happy to opine on Brown. "The genius of the decision was the recognition that the act of separating the students was where the violation was. And it rejected the defense -- certainly, just a theoretical one given the actual record -- that you could have equal facilities and equal treatment," he said.

But Justice Antonin Scalia would not even answer a question about Marbury v. Madison -- the very decision that asserted the power of judicial review -- back in 1986.

"Marbury v. Madison is one of the pillars of the Constitution," Scalia said. "To the extent that you think a nominee would be so foolish or so extreme as to kick over one of the pillars of the Constitution, I suppose you shouldn't confirm him," Scalia said.

"But I don't think I should answer questions regarding any specific Supreme Court opinion, even one as fundamental as Marbury v. Madison."

Scalia -- who would go on to become an outspoken conservative icon on the Supreme Court -- wasn't finished.

He told senators he "ought to be in trouble" if they were to uncover anything he'd written disregarding the opinion, "without you asking me specifically about my views."

Terre Haute
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Robinson
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 72°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 76°
Rockville
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 68°
Casey
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 78°
Brazil
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Marshall
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
No Change
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 149574

Reported Deaths: 7273
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook930534651
Lake10039425
DuPage9392477
Kane7909276
Will6996322
Winnebago311897
McHenry214198
St. Clair2054138
Kankakee131265
Unassigned1177210
Rock Island107330
Madison105470
Kendall100622
Champaign97315
Boone61721
DeKalb58720
Peoria57429
Sangamon46233
Jackson34019
McLean28913
Randolph2887
Stephenson2806
Ogle2784
Clinton24317
Macon23822
LaSalle23317
Whiteside20015
Union19519
Coles17917
Grundy1765
Iroquois1675
Tazewell1548
Knox1490
Warren1470
Monroe13713
Cass1367
Adams1341
Williamson1334
Morgan1323
Jefferson10717
Lee1042
McDonough10215
Henry981
Pulaski800
Vermilion792
Marion700
Macoupin603
Perry581
Montgomery561
Douglas540
Livingston532
Christian474
Jasper477
Jo Daviess471
Ford401
Woodford372
Jersey361
Franklin340
Bureau312
Menard260
Mercer250
Washington240
Fayette233
Mason230
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Johnson200
Piatt200
Effingham191
Hancock191
Moultrie190
Shelby191
Crawford180
Logan180
Bond171
Cumberland170
Clark150
Fulton150
Massac150
Wayne151
Schuyler130
De Witt120
Marshall120
Edgar110
Brown100
Saline100
Greene80
Henderson80
Lawrence80
White80
Richland70
Hamilton60
Stark60
Gallatin40
Pike40
Clay20
Edwards20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 48626

Reported Deaths: 2717
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11723689
Lake5212244
Elkhart332051
Allen2815132
St. Joseph198168
Cass16399
Hamilton1596101
Hendricks1414100
Johnson1288117
Porter73637
Tippecanoe7279
Madison66364
Clark66044
Bartholomew58944
Howard58057
LaPorte57926
Vanderburgh5706
Kosciusko5564
Marshall4926
Noble48428
Jackson4723
LaGrange4719
Delaware45050
Boone44943
Hancock44935
Shelby43025
Floyd38244
Morgan32931
Monroe30128
Montgomery29720
Grant29526
Clinton2892
Dubois2836
Henry28016
White26510
Decatur25532
Lawrence24625
Vigo2368
Dearborn23323
Warrick22129
Harrison21622
Greene19032
Miami1842
Jennings17612
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess14717
Wayne1426
Orange13523
Perry1359
Steuben1302
Franklin1268
Ripley1227
Jasper1212
Wabash1132
Carroll1102
Fayette1017
Newton9910
Whitley965
Starke933
Gibson872
Randolph804
Huntington782
Wells751
Jefferson722
Fulton711
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Adams501
Owen491
Benton480
Sullivan451
Posey440
Spencer411
Blackford392
Brown391
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton311
Switzerland270
Martin230
Parke230
Ohio170
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193