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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Real Effects of Supreme Court Decisions

Feature Story by Tyler Lewis - 7/25/2005

Three ordinary Americans joined Senator Ted Kennedy, D. Mass. and Rep. Mel Watt, D. N.C, at a press conference held on Capitol Hill, to show how the cases the Supreme Court decides affect the everyday lives, rights and freedoms of millions of Americans.

Beverly Jones, Patti Phillips, and Dr. Scott Spears told their individual stories at a July 21 press briefing designed to inform both the Senate and American people of the need to conduct a thorough review of the record of John Roberts, President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court.

Beverly Jones, plaintiff in Tennessee v. Lane and Jones (2004), noted that retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the deciding vote in the case that made access for individuals with disabilities more readily available in her state of Tennessee.

She said, "I am very concerned that the individual that the President has named to succeed Justice O'Connor, John Roberts, must show that he is committed to guaranteeing and upholding the rights of all Americans, and for me, that means for people with disabilities."

In the wake of John Roberts' nomination, many civil rights organizations have expressed concern that Roberts' relatively brief career as a judge might make it difficult to adequately ascertain his judicial philosophy. They are pushing for a thorough examination of Roberts' record.

Dr. Spears, a practitioner and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, stressed the importance of health care as a fundamental human right and the Supreme Court's consistent protection of these rights.

Patti Phillips, one of the more recent beneciaries of such protections, told the audience that she and her family lost her youngest daughter to cancer in February. In a poignant speech, she credited the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) case, Nevada Dept. of Human Resources v. Hibbs, which upheld FMLA protection for employees' taking leave for family health emergencies, stating, "I hope that the FMLA is just the beginning of making this nation more family friendly and I hope that the Supreme Court won't take away Congress' ability to pass laws like these."

Tying these real life stories and the impact of the Supreme Court with the need for a thorough review of a Supreme Court nominee's record, both senators fielded questions about the kind of questions they would ask John Roberts. Commenting on the importance of the issues raised in these cases, Sen. Kennedy said, "These issues go the very heart of our commitment to equal opportunity. While we will not prejudge John Roberts' views, the American people want us to ask about those views before casting a vote on his nomination."

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