As one rights group rejects Thomas, 2nd weighs delay Legal defense fund opposes nominee

August 14, 1991|By Arch Parsons | Arch Parsons,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- One of two landmark civil rights organizations still to take stands on the confirmation of Judge Clarence Thomas for a Supreme Court seat flatly rejected him yesterday, but the other was considering taking a wait-and-see position until after Senate confirmation hearings.

Announcing its strong opposition to Judge Thomas was the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund -- an organization separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that was created in 1940 with Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, then a civil rights lawyer, as its first director-counsel. Judge Thomas, if confirmed, would replace Justice Marshall, who is retiring.

Considering a delay in any Thomas decision was the Atlanta-based Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which is holding its annual convention in Birmingham, Ala.

The legal defense fund's current director-counsel, Julius L. Chambers, said at a news conference that seating Judge Thomas on the Supreme Court would be "inimical to the interest of African American people, other minorities, women and America itself."

Confirmation by the Senate of Judge Thomas would "further threaten civil rights and constitutional guarantees that are now under siege," Mr. Chambers said.

He added that the nominee, a judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, has shown in recent writings and speeches about the Constitution and the Supreme Court an "intemperate disdain for affirmative efforts by the government to assist those who have been victimized because of their group status."

Later in the day, however, the Rev. Joseph P. Lowery, SCLC president, told reporters in Birmingham that he would recommend to the organization's 54-member board of directors that it take no action until after the nominee appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee at hearings scheduled to begin Sept. 10.

"I don't want our convention to get bogged down in that debate, although we will discuss the nomination," Mr. Lowery said, according to an Associated Press report. "I want to give Judge Thomas a chance to have his say."

In an interview with the Washington Times, Mr. Lowery described the relatively early denunciations of Judge Thomas by the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus as "precipitous."

The board went into closed session late yesterday afternoon to consider the recommendation to wait.

Back in Washington, Judge Thomas' nomination was supported by a pro-Thomas statement issued yesterday by the Citizens Committee to Confirm Clarence Thomas, a conservative group organized recently with reported sympathy and support from the White House.

Gary L. Bauer, a former Reagan White House official who is committee president, reported on Judge Thomas' law enforcement record and judicial views. Mr. Bauer, who heads the Family Research Council, summarized the reports as finding the judge to be an "effective enforcer" of civil rights laws whose judicial views were "well within the mainstream of American jurisprudence."

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