Disability Groups Praise Specter On Tough Questions For John
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
August 26, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC--Four national disability groups have applauded Senator Arlen Specter for his tough questioning of U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.
Specter, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Roberts on August 23, asking for his comments regarding "judicial activism" in a number of Supreme Court decisions.
Specter reportedly asked Roberts his opinions related to two disability-related cases that were decided by a single vote by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whom Roberts is set to replace on the court.
In the case of University of Alabama v. Garrett, the Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that state employee Pat Garrett could not sue her employer for discriminating against her after she was demoted following breast cancer treatment. The Justices commented that Congress overstepped its bounds when it gave individuals the right to sue states under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
In Tennessee v. Lane, the Supreme Court ruled that two individuals who use wheelchairs could sue the state of Tennessee for failing to make courthouses accessible to them. In that case, the Justices said that the state had violated the individuals' rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
In the letter, Specter wrote that he saw the two cases as being nearly identical and that the court's markedly different decisions were destabilizing to people with disabilities and amounted to the Supreme Court acting as a "super legislature".
On Friday, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law wrote to Specter, thanking him for including the disability cases in his questions for Roberts. The groups also requested that Specter have a representative from one or more of these groups testify at Roberts' confirmation hearings next month.
Jim Ward, president of ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights, also wrote to Specter, reminding the Pennsylvania Republican that Roberts fought protections for people with disabilities in the Toyota v. Williams case. Roberts successfully convinced the Supreme Court that Ms. Williams did not qualify for protections under the ADA because her carpal tunnel syndrome did not sufficiently limit her life activities.
"Sadly, Mr. Roberts' record reveals that he would not only continue this trend of 'judicial activism' but would further it," wrote Ward, "risking our remaining protections spared only by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor siding with the majority in 5-4 decisions including historic cases such as Olmstead v. L.C. and Tennessee v. Lane."
"Disability Coalition on Judge John Roberts: Praises Specter's Concerns, Asks to Testify at Hearing" (ADA Watch)
"Specter asks Roberts' view on powers of Congress" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Text of Letter to Senator Specter (Justice For All)