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Black Leaders, Progressives Not Thrilled with Obama's SCOTUS Pick

Many in the civil rights community were not exactly ecstatic with President Obama's selection of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
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Many in the civil rights community were not exactly ecstatic with President Obama's selection of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. A specific communications effort that focused only on "process" and blind obstruction by Republicans was chosen by many groups -- rather than a focus on Garland.

None of the major civil rights groups said they were notified by the White House that Garland would be chosen prior to the President's announcement. In their statements, the NAACP, the Leadership Council on Civil Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund simply pushed the Senate to act on the President's nominee.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were set to discuss whether a joint statement by the CBC at their weekly meeting would be released but no statement on the Garland nomination was issued as individual members pledged to study his views.
Others in the progressive community made their dissatisfaction clear. National Organization of Women President Terry O'Neill fired off a press release shortly before the President presented Garland to reporters and members of Congress in the Rose Garden.

"It's unfortunate that President Obama felt it was necessary to appoint a nominee to the Supreme Court whose record on issues pertaining to women’s rights is more or less a blank slate. Equally unfortunate is that we have to continue to wait for the first African American woman to be named," O'Neill said in the statement adding hotly that, "the highest court in the nation was a cipher—a real nowhere man."

Even though members of the Black Women's Roundtable, who represent a coalition of Black women's groups mobilizing in the African American community, contacted the White House with a letter on the issue of selecting a African America female nominee, their views were not reflected in the choice of Garland. The group presented a list of African American Judges they say were more than qualified to served on the U.S. Supreme Court.

A statement by the Black Women's Roundtable, headed by Melanie Campbell, reflected their feelings.

"We are disappointed and had hoped that an African-American woman would be nominated. We have and will continue to advocate for the next Supreme Court vacancy to be filled by an exceptional black woman to bring about a balance that ensures the court is more representative of all Americans," Campbell said.

"We continue to believe it is time for African American women to be represented in all sectors of government — including the U. S. Supreme Court of the United States, which in its 227 year history has not had a Black woman nominated to serve on the highest court in the land," the release continued.

Members of Congress weighed in as well.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) was focused on Garland's qualifications and obstruction by the Senate but was also quick to point out that there needed to be an African-American appointed to the Supreme Court.

"We simply do not have the African American point of view on the bench and we need that. I am also disturbed about the packing of the court with Harvard-trained lawyers," Johnson added.

"We don't have anybody on the Supreme Court who has any understanding of our unique cultural issues. Everybody else is represented. I'm not mad. We have women, Latinos, white men -- when do we get somebody?" asked Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

"I trust the President. He was to walk a delicate line. Would I have loved to have had an African American on the Supreme Court that shares my values and my journey and who understands the plight of African Americans? Absolutely, because we have so many issues that come before the Supreme Court that are directly tied to the minority experience. But I have to respect the position he's in and move forward, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) told NBCBLK off the floor of the House today.

Moving forward it will be interesting to see if there will be momentum on the political left to push Garland's nomination with the type of political energy required to convince Republicans to stop obstructing the President's nominee.

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