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The Republicans had to do something to make Janice Rogers Brown appear a sympathetic figure. The California state judge “has such an atrocious civil rights record she makes Clarence Thomas look like Thurgood Marshall," said Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) at a Congressional Black Caucus press conference, last week. "She's cut from the same cloth as Clarence Thomas," declared Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting representative in the House, and one of the caucus’s leading legal lights. George Bush “hasn’t fooled us” with his nomination of Brown to become the second Black woman on the DC Court of Appeals.

Indeed, Janice Brown is “to the Right of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia,” according to a study by People for the American Way. “Her many disturbing dissents, often not joined by a single other justice, make it clear that she would use the power of an appeals court seat to try to erect significant barriers for victims of discrimination to seek justice in the courts, and to push an agenda that would undermine privacy, equal protection under the law, environmental protection, and much more.”

Janice Brown is frightening, like Clarence Thomas. So we put a fright wig on Thomas and called it Janice Brown.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch stage-managed the Brown nomination hearing opening act, Wednesday, brandishing the cartoon like damning evidence of conservative-bashing by “the usual suspects.” Members of the audience struggled to stifle laughter as the cartoon was exhibited to the hearing room. “Despicable…shameful,” Hatch fumed.

(Days earlier, Hatch had attempted to link the September 4 issue cartoon directly to People For The American Way and the NAACP, figuring to thus “taint” the groups by association with someone else’s drawing. There can be no doubt that Hatch knew better; the cartoon bears the signature of the artist, and “” is prominently inked in the left-hand corner.  Hatch of course made no effort to contact – that might have spoiled his cynical display of indignation at the “usual suspects,” his real targets: the NAACP and PFAW.)

Brown said she became aware of Khalil Bendib’s cartoon, featuring the Thomas character (with and without fright wig), Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and George Bush, when shown it by her husband. “At least I’m in good company,” she told Hatch. Our point, entirely!

Hatch sought to create a pool of sympathy for poor Judge Brown, in hopes of deflecting pointed questions.  However, there is nothing in Brown’s record but reactionary rhetoric disguised as legal opinion, political grandstanding in service of her patrons. In response to New York Senator Charles Schumer’s terse interrogation, Brown could offer little more than a halting, “The cases say what they say.”  Schumer’s conclusion: “She wants to turn back the clock, not just a few years, but by a century or more.”

Janice Brown is a Jim Crow-era judge, in natural blackface.

After delivering the obligatory denunciation of ’s cartoon, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) got down to the business at hand: "You have described the year 1937, the year in which President Roosevelt's New Deal legislation started taking effect as 'the triumph of our socialist revolution.'" Brown lamely responded that she had simply been trying to stimulate thought among an audience of law students. Nevertheless, "The speech speaks for itself," she said. Yes, it does.

Janice Brown is scary. We could have suggested to cartoonist Bendib that he put the wig on another infamous Black character from the bootlicking quarters of California. Janice Brown bears an uncanny political resemblance to Ward Connerly, whose Proposition 54 initiative to erase race from the public records of the state was defeated in the recent recall election. Brown shares with Connerly the belief that the constitution does not allow affirmative action, but rather, “equality of individual opportunity."

Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters championed an array of affirmative action programs knocked down by Brown’s state court. “All the work that I did…was undermined by that judge,” said Waters, last week.

Janice Brown is mean, too – vicious, even. Angered that all of her court colleagues disagreed with her opinion on a particular case, she raged that high school students were capable of better legal research. Brown makes a habit of lashing out at those who do not share her troglodyte views. “Some of her dissenting opinions have been openly contemptuous of her colleagues,” said the People for The American Way study. “Sources on the court have reportedly stated that her fellow justices have privately complained about her ‘poison pen’ and have called Brown a ‘loose cannon when she has a typewriter in front of her.’

Brown is the not fit for the job, by the standards of the profession. The evaluation committee of the California Bar Association rated Brown “unqualified” for state judgeship, in 1996. Among Bush choices for the federal bench, only Ninth Circuit nominee William Myers ranks lower in the American Bar Association ratings. Brown, a legal advisor to former California Governor Pete Wilson, is a purely political creature of the state’s Republican Right. She’s their judge.

Brown’s nomination is opposed by the universe of civil rights, labor, and environmental opinion: including the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Alliance for Justice, AFL-CIO, Alliance for Retired Americans, Americans for Democratic Action, Feminist Majority, NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Bar Association, National Council of Jewish Women, National Organization for Women, National Senior Citizens Law Center, National Women's Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Planned Parenthood, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the Sierra Club, as listed by PFAW.

Senate Democrats have not said whether they will filibuster Brown, the tactic they have used to hold up confirmation of three other Bush nominees, all them rated far higher than Brown by the ABA. Hispanic nominee Miguel Estrada finally dropped out of contention. Democratic leadership should respect the wishes of the Congressional Black Caucus, and filibuster Brown. Her nomination is an insult, not a bow, to African American sentiments. Take it from Maxine Waters: Brown’s race “does not mean that any of us would and will give a pass to an unqualified nominee simply because she is a minority candidate."

Should her nomination fail, Janice Brown will henceforth be remembered as Clarence Thomas in a fright wig.  She can thank Orrin Hatch for that.



October 23, 2003
Issue 61

is published every Thursday.

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