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While extending condolences to the family of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died of natural causes over the weekend, NewsOne’s legal expert Damario Solomon-Simmons says that the vacancy gives President Barack Obama a golden opportunity to right the court on issues of civil rights.
“The reality is that Justice Scalia and his religious like adherence to the ‘originalist interpretation’ of the Constitution that conservatives promote, leaves a destructive legacy of rolling back the blood-stained civil rights gains and progress important to our community and this nation,” Solomon-Simmons told NewsOne. “This includes Justice Scalia’s strong opposition to Affirmative Action, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. “
Further, he said that Justice Scalia frequently “spewed hurtful and derogatory language and ideas about African-Americans in his so-called ‘colorful’ questions and opinions.”
Scalia recently came under fire for derogatory comments about Black students’ intellectual capabilities during oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case that challenges affirmative action policies in college admissions. He said that some African Americans are hurt by being admitted to top universities and might be better served at “slower-track” ones.
So outdone by the comments was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid that he took to the floor of the chamber to condemn the comments, saying: “It is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation’s highest court…his endorsement of racist theories has frightening implications.”
Solomon-Simmons echoed Reid’s concerns, saying, “As a Civil Rights attorney fighting to ensure liberty, justice, and equality for all, I’m excited about the prospect of President Obama nominating a replacement for Justice Scalia. I’m looking forward to a Supreme Court nominee who understands that our country needs to overcome its racist, sexist, and elitist founding. And a nominee who understands in 1787 ‘We The People” actually only meant “We the Rich White Men.’
He said the Constitution must be interpreted as a “living document” that takes into consideration the world we now live in and not just the world of our founding fathers.
And he scoffed at the notion peddled by Republicans that Obama should stave off selecting a nominee until a new president is elected.
“Of course President Obama should nominate someone because it is constitutional duty to do so,” he said. “We know that even if Jesus himself came back and was nominated by President Obama for the court, Republicans would vigorously object. So, I hope that President Obama nominates his choice for the Court tomorrow and fights like hell to get that person confirmed.
Solomon-Simmons also noted that the next candidate should be a Black woman, noting that President Obama was overwhelmingly swept into office both times by African-American voters. In fact, the 2012 election was the first time that Black voter turnout exceeded that of Whites.
“Therefore, I hope and pray that President Obama will reward the Black community’s support of him and nominate an African-American to the bench,” Solomon-Simmons said. “I hope that nominee is the ideological opposite of Justice Clarence Thomas, and I would love to see a Black female get the nomination.”
Solomon-Simmons, like others, have named California Attorney General Kamala Harris as a possible candidate. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is another name that has popped up.
Harris’ nomination makes sense for several reasons, he said. She is 51 years old, which means she would most likely be on the court for at least 20 years, enabling her to protect President Obama’s legacy, including Obamacare.
It would also help fuel excitement among African American women voters in this election cycle. Given her credentials, including serving as the top prosecutor for the largest state in the country, Republicans would have difficulty opposing her nomination on ideological grounds, he said.
“Therefore, Republican objection will be easily seen for what it is: politically and racially motivated hatred of President Obama,” Solomon-Simmons said. “ Unfortunately, since Harris seems to be the favorite in the upcoming California Senate race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, I’m not sure she would want to leave the campaign trail to enter what will be an ugly and protracted nomination fight.”
Do you think Harris would pass up an opportunity to sit on the Supreme Court? Sound off in comments. And click here to read the list of other possible nominees.