NAACP board's opposition to Judge Thomas' confirmation, appears certain

July 30, 1991|By Arch Parsons | Arch Parsons,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The 64-member board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which will meet here tomorrow, is likely to decide to oppose Senate confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas as a U.S. Supreme Court justice, according to sources familiar with board members' opinions.

Although it was expected that the board would go on record as opposing Judge Thomas' confirmation, there was uncertainty about how strongly its opposition would be stated and about the extent to which it would be able to achieve unanimity in reaching a decision.

Moreover, some NAACP analysts estimated that on the basis of their counts of votes in the Senate, Judge Thomas is, as one of them put it, "75 percent" down the road to being confirmed.

When the board took up the Thomas question at the NAACP's annual convention in Houston, Texas, two weeks ago, it clearly split on the issue. Passions reportedly ran so high at that time over President Bush's nomination of Judge Thomas that the board postponed further discussion until tomorrow and asked that a report on Judge Thomas' record be prepared by the NAACP staff as a basis for the forthcoming deliberations.

Tomorrow, the board will debate and vote on the basis of a 75-page report prepared by Wade Henderson, head of the NAACP's Washington office.

The report is said to make no recommendations to the board on what action it should take. The board's procedures do not require that its decisions be unanimous, but sources said that on a matter as critical to the NAACP as the Thomas nomination, it would strive for as much unanimity as possible.

While shunning a recommendation, the report is said to make a strong case for opposing confirmation. NAACP sources said that it cites two previous occasions on which the board opposed JudgeThomas -- once calling for his resignation as chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and later opposing his appointment to a second term in that post.

But the NAACP took no action last year when President Bush nominated Judge Thomas for the seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which he now holds.

NAACP sources said yesterday that the Rev. Benjamin L. Hooks, executive director of the civil rights organization, would prefer that the board take a wait-and-see attitude pending the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on whether Judge Thomas should confirmed.

The hearing is scheduled to begin Sept. 10.

But these sources said that Mr. Hooks does not intend to press his position when the board meets. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The best Judge Thomas may be able to expect from the NAACP board, according to sources familiar with its members' views, is that its opposition to him may be sufficiently mild to enable him to avoid becoming the target of an all-out campaign against confirmation.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a coalition of 185 organizations, successfully led such a campaign against the confirmation of Robert H. Bork in 1987.

The National Urban League, another of the major civil rights organizations and like the NAACP a member of the Leadership Conference, has already taken a neutral stance on Judge Thomas' confirmation.

Meanwhile, the Alliance For Justice, a liberal advocacy group, urged the Senate yesterday to reject Judge Thomas.

Nan Aron, the group's director, charged that his writings and his eight-year tenure at the EEOC "suggest he will fail to carry out his constitutional obligations" as a Supreme Court justice.

The Alliance was also a participant in the Leadership Conference campaign to defeat the Bork confirmation.

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