Now Thurgood Marshall?

June 29, 2010 10:50 am ET — Ari Rabin-Havt

Yesterday TPM highlighted Senate Republicans' attacks on Thurgood Marshall during Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation hearings:

It seems as though conservative attempts to rewrite history are not limited to Texas textbooks. Marshall himself laid out some extremely strict limitations on the power of the judiciary:

"Our central function is to act as neutral arbiters of disputes that arise under the law. To this end, we bind ourselves through our own code of ethics to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or partiality. We must handle the cases that come before us without regard for what result might meet with public approval. We must decide each case in accordance with the law. We must not reach for a result that we, in our arrogance, believe will further some goal not related to the concrete case before us. And we must treat the litigants in every case in an evenhanded manner. It would be as wrong to favor the prosecution in every criminal case as it would be to favor the plaintiff in every tort suit."

These attacks on Marshall are especially jarring coming from Jeff Sessions, considering the role racism (his own) played during his failed nomination to the bench:

During the 1986 confirmation process, Sessions was accused of unfairly targeting black civil rights workers for election fraud charges as a federal prosecutor. A black lawyer under Sessions in the U.S. attorney's office accused him of saying he thought the Ku Klux Klan was "OK" until he found out some of its members were "pot smokers."

Sessions said the statement was meant as a joke and unfairly taken out of context.

But the confirmation process also revealed that Sessions had once called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union "un-American" and "communist-inspired."

Sessions, who spoke with Obama on Tuesday about the Supreme Court vacancy, told POLITICO that those comments were made in a private conversation he had with an African-American on his staff in the U.S. attorney's office - and that they were taken out of context.

And Sessions won't be the only GOP participant in the hearing with race issues in his past. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, is on the GOP witness list. According to a 2006 post from our sister organization Media Matters for America:

The Boston Herald reported in an October 16, 2006, article, "In 2001, [Perkins] gave a speech at a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] considers a hate group." Indeed, a Fall 2004 article in the SPLC's Intelligence Report asserted that Perkins "spoke to the Louisiana Council of Conservative Citizens on May 19, 2001," during his tenure as a Louisiana state legislator. The SPLC characterizes the CCC as a "white nationalist" organization, and has reported that the group is "the reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s." The CCC declares in its statement of principles:

"We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called "affirmative action" and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."

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