Article II of the U.S. Constitution empowers the president to nominate persons to the Supreme Court with the “advice and consent” of the Senate. The Supreme Court nominee may lack legal training and he or she is not explicitly required under the Constitution to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was established as a standing committee in 1816 and no Supreme Court nominee appeared before it until 1925. This nominee was Harlan Stone, who established the model for vetting Supreme Court nominees. The U.S. Supreme Court was created in 1789.
The Senate Judiciary Committee sought testimony from Supreme Court nominee Stone about the Teapot Dome Scandal. President Calvin Coolidge named him attorney general to investigate the scandals in the Harding administration. President Warren Harding, a person of African ancestry, had been murdered and a cover-up was afoot.
Professor Felix Frankfurter had to appear before this standing committee in 1939 to answer slanderous accusations that had been lodged against him. Interestingly, Frankfurter described Charles Hamilton Houston as one of his best and brightest students at Harvard Law School and he attended Houston’s funeral in 1950.
Brown v. Bd. of Education ushered in the routine practice of vetting nominees for the Supreme Court. There was also Gayle v. Browder. Blacks had to be kept in check. Nominees for the Supreme Court must be kept within the mainstream of American decision making.
Senators want to make sure that Supreme Court decisions continue to restrict the privileges and immunities clause of the 14th Amendment to the Slaughterhouse Cases and that the 13th Amendment stays clear of defining “badges of servitude.” Judge Sonia Sotomayor stuttered in her discussion of the Slaughterhouse Cases.
Only about 20 percent of all Supreme Court nominees have been questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee and no one, including Judge Thurgood Marshall, has been as shabbily treated as Judge Sotomayor, who brings more federal judicial experience to the High Court than any other Supreme Court nominee.
All of the stereotypes of a Puerto Rican jurist were present in her confirmation hearing led by know-it-all Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama with the acquiescence of Senate Democrats. I doubt if she could have been more shabbily treated by hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The accusations against her ran the gamut from reverse racism to incompetence. Had it not been for affirmative action, according to implied statements by members of the U.S. Senate, Judge Sotomayor would probably have been a hotel maid. America is still unable to outlive its racist past.
If there is no need for a Supreme Court nominee to be a lawyer coupled with a lack of a constitutional requirement for a Supreme Court nominee to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, you have to question why Senate Democrats would subject her to this ordeal. They have the votes to prevent a filibuster.
The nomination of Judge Sotomayor was not groundbreaking. Justice Marshall enjoyed this distinction. His elevation to the Supreme Court paved the way for the nominations of Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Ginsburg. None of them were members of a group that could vote before Reconstruction, except women, who were disenfranchised until 1920.
These nominations have to be measured against the original intent of the Constitution, which is not only xenophobic but also misogynistic. In enforcing the original intent of the Constitution, Republican senators took Judge Sotomayor to the woodshed. In 1991, Senate Democrats took Justice Clarence Thomas to the outhouse. Thomas defined it as a “high-tech lynching.”
Justice Thomas was “lynched,” even though he had already renounced his link to a Black philosophy, history and culture. On the other hand, Senate Republicans suspect that Judge Sotomayor may still harbor some respect for her ancestry. During her confirmation hearing, she was asked to raise the white flag. This is a far cry from the treatment that was accorded to Justice Louis Brandeis, who was an acknowledged Zionist. His political philosophy was never placed under the Senate microscope. Similarly, Justice Felix Frankfurter, who followed in his footsteps, never had to discount his belief in Zionism.
No Pan-Africanist would ever be nominated to a sit on the High Court. Justice Marshall had to denounce the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X and he recused himself from deciding Clay v. United States. Muhammad Ali would get the last laugh, however. Internationally and domestically, he overshadowed Justice Marshall.
If President Barack Hussein Obama had been sensitive to the continued, plantation legacy of the Constitution, he would have personally appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and taken the blows for Judge Sotomayor. Black men must be sensitive to the plight of women of color. They suffer from the twin evils of racism and sexism.
White supremacists were biting at the bit to take a shot at Tawana Brawley, like they did with Judge Sotomayor, even though she was the victim and Steven Pagones was the perpetrator. These white supremacists even had some Blacks demanding that Tawana Brawley be taken to the woodshed. Celia a Slave went to the woodshed with her slave owner, but he never lived to tell what happened.
Given the fact that Chief Justices Roger Taney and Morrison R. Waite and Justices Joseph Bradley and James Clark McReynolds were only qualified to wreak havoc from the High Court, Judge Sotomayor’s appointment should be a breath of fresh air. The Supreme Court still needs some disinfectant to remove the lingering stench of Dred Scott, even if it, will, from a middle-of-the roader, philosophically.
July 24: Memorial services for Corneilus Faison III, a founding member of United African Movement and founding member of the National Action Network, from 6-9 p.m. July 26: Family Day for Freedom Retreat for Girls in the Catskill Mountains at the historic Peg Leg Bates. An all-day cookout, which is reminiscent of the outings at Peg Leg Bates Resort in the 1950s before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For bus transportation, call UAM at (718) 834-9034.
July 29: UAM Weekly Forum at Elks Plaza, 1068 Harriet Tubman (Fulton Street) near Classon Avenue in Brooklyn at 7:30 p.m. Take the “C” train to Franklin Avenue. Two blocks to Elks Plaza. Admission is free.
Sept. 19:The historic, inaugural meeting of the Freedom Party in Buffalo, which was also the site of the formation of the Free Soil Party in 1848. President Warren G. Harding said, “Personally, I am a believer in government through political parties.” White supremacists formed both the Democratic and Republican parties. Blacks must establish their own political mouthpiece.
Oct 10-11: Overnight bus trip and hotel lodgings to the Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore and “Nile Valley on the Potomac” field trip in Washington, D.C.