Civil Rights Groups Oppose Mukasey Nomination


11-08-07, 1:25 pm

On November 6, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-8 to send the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to the full Senate for a vote to become the next U.S. Attorney General.

Civil rights groups now oppose the confirmation of Judge Mukasey because he 'refused to condemn waterboarding as torture, endorsed broad assertions of executive authority, and failed to make firm commitments to the enforcement of civil rights,' according to a November 5 Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) letter to the Committee.

In two days of hearings, Judge Mukasey, voiced some support for civil rights enforcement, but civil rights groups said it was unclear what actual steps he will take to reform the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division work.

One particular sticking point for many Division watchers was Mukasey's reluctance in the hearings to acknowledge destroyed morale in the Department of Justice. Mukasey frequently referred to the situation as a 'perception' and, at one point, interrupted Senator Dick Durbin, D. Ill., to say that he found Department attorneys to be 'energized' and 'focused.'

'There have been numerous well-documented reports of low morale and high turnover in the Civil Rights Division,' said LCCR Senior Policy Analyst and Special Counsel Julie Fernandes. 'Mukasey's comments on this issue indicate a lack of awareness about exactly what has been going on in the Division under the Bush administration.'

Though heavy on questions about torture and executive power, civil rights groups paid close attention to Mukasey's response to questioning from Sen. Ben Cardin, D. Md., who focused exclusively on issues pertaining to the Division's civil rights work.

Sen. Cardin acknowledged the hearing's lack of adequate questioning on the Division and honed in on the decrease in the number of cases the Division has brought to protect voting rights and to challenge employment discrimination, the approval of a controversial Georgia voter I.D. law, and a decrease in work to combat racial profiling.

'We are pleased that there were some important conversations on civil rights during the hearings,' said Wade Henderson, LCCR president and CEO. 'However, the devil is in the details. We are still unsure Mukasey knows the extent to which the Division's work has deteriorated. He should if he is going to adequately fix it.'

From Leadership Conference on Civil Rights