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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 2, 2002
2:32 PM
CONTACT:  People for the American Way
Tracy Duckett or Nathan Richter 202-467-4999
U.S. Supreme Court Eroded Civil Rights, Liberties In 2002
Next Justice Will Shape The Future Of Constitutional Protections
 
WASHINGTON - July 2 - In its 2001-2002 term, the U.S. Supreme Court attacked civil rights and liberties, striking blows to the separation of church and state, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the privacy rights of students and other fundamental rights. The number of close decisions -- often by 5-4 votes -- that were led or joined by Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas points out the grave risk presented by future appointees in the mold of these two right-wing activist justices.

A new report released today by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) chronicles the threat posed by the Supreme Court's ultra-conservative members to decades of progress on civil rights and liberties, the environment and other fundamental freedoms. In its annual update to 2000's groundbreaking Courting Disaster, PFAWF analyzes the 2001-2002 term's non-criminal law decisions in six areas: civil rights and discrimination, federalism and governmental authority, privacy rights and reproductive freedom, religious liberty, free expression and censorship, and consumer and worker protection.

"The last eight years have been the longest gap between Supreme Court appointments in 179 years. We are long overdue for a new associate justice, who will help determine the future of our civil rights, environmental protections, reproductive rights, privacy, religious liberty, freedom of expression and so much more," People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas said today.

The 2002 Courting Disaster report profiles the growing strength of the Court's right-wing bloc. In one case, the court severely limited the ADA by ruling that a company need not alter some of its personnel policies to accommodate a disabled worker. In another decision, the Court promoted a "states' rights" agenda by ruling that federal administrative agencies cannot hold states responsible for disobeying federal law, essentially denying citizens effective recourse in many such cases. And in one of its final rulings, the closely divided Court perilously undermined the wall between church and state by upholding a school voucher plan. PFAWF's report also features several cases in which the Court rejected by narrow margins efforts by Scalia and Thomas to diminish government protections for patients' rights, the environment, and civil rights.

"By examining the work of these two justices in their own words, we can see how crucial it is that the next associate justice have a commitment to the Constitution's protection of all Americans," said Neas. "President Bush stated that he would seek to fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices like Scalia and Thomas. The latest installment of Courting Disaster demonstrates the disastrous consequences that another Scalia or Thomas could bring. Indeed, a Scalia-Thomas majority could shatter more than a hundred Supreme Court precedents."

The Courting Disaster 2002 update is available online at http://www.pfaw.org/issues/judiciary/reports/courting_disaster_2002.pdf

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