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Sign a petition opposing Jeffrey Sutton

Sutton is 'a leading advocate for a group of far-right legal theorists attempting to limit Congress's power to protect individuals' civil rights.'

Sutton's record against people with disabilities


Senate vote on Sutton expected tomorrow

WASHINGTON, DC, April 28, 2003 -- A Senate vote to confirm the nomination of attorney Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected tomorrow. Disability activists have come to the nation's capital for a flurry of last-minute lobbying against the nominee, who they say is actively against disability rights (see below). ADAWatch.org, which has been spearheading the drive against Sutton, urges those concerned about rights to contact their Senators and urge them to vote against confirming Sutton.

Albany Times-Union columnist Michael Volkman explains the problem with Sutton.

Read "Opposition swells against Ohio judge nominee" in 4/26 Cincinnati Enquirer.


Debate on Sutton starts this week

WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2003 -- Senate floor debate on the nominate of Jeffrey Sutton to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals could start today, says ADA Watch. Disability groups have mounted a fight to keep the Ohio attorney off the Appeals Court, saying his agenda is anti-disability rights. See below.

We need to be united as a community and call on Senators to speak out against Sutton," says ADAWatch's Jim Ward. "Please call. Please send a Fax. Please fax your organization's letter of opposition, even if you have already done so before," he adds.

ADA Watch wants advocates to ask Senators to "speak out against Sutton in their Caucus and during extended debate on the Senate floor, to delay the vote and educate the public about Sutton's extremist ideology, and to vote 'NO' on Sutton when there is a vote."

"Use information from www.adawatch.org to make your case," says Ward. ".We are asking for a lot but we cannot win this campaign without your efforts. Contact Sen. Tom Harkin at V: 202-224-3254 and F: 202-224-9369. Thank him for his leadership on Sutton and ask him to aggressively lead the effort to delay any vote on Sutton's confirmation. Contact Sen. Feinstein at V: 202-224-3841 and F: 202-224-3841. Respectfully ask her to vote against Sutton on the floor.

Ward urges advocates to contact the following members of the Democratic leadership and ask them to speak out against Sutton in their Caucus and at length during the extended Senate debate. (All area codes are 202):
Sen. Tom Daschle V: 224-2321 F: 224-6603
Sen. Harry Reid V: 224-3542 F: 224:7327
Sen. Barbara Mikulski V: 224-4654 F: 224-8858
Sen. John Breaux V: 224-4623 F: 224-2577
Sen. Byron Dorgan V: 224-2551 F: 224-1193
Sen. Hillary Clinton V: 224-4451 F: 228-0282
Sen. Dick Durbin V: 224-2152 F: 228-0400
Sen. John Corzine V: 224-4744 F: 228-2197
Sen. Debbie Stabnow V: 224-4822 F: 224-0325
Sen. Barbara Boxer V: 202-224-3553 F:415-956-6701

Sutton nomination approved by Committee Feb. 13, 2003

Disabled activists to talk of Sutton's record on their lives

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan.30, 2003 -- Hundreds of people with disabilities attended yesterday's Sutton Judiciary hearing. Today many will be telling news media the story of how Sutton's record of aggressive efforts to dismantle civil rights protections has affected their lives. At 1:30PM, ADA Watch is sponsoring a People's Hearing in 138 Dirksen Senate Office Building, to examine the impact of Mr. Sutton's activism on people with disabilities. Dozens of individuals from Sutton's home-state of Ohio, who traveled yesterday from a protest in their state capitol, will share their stories and illustrate the threats of Federalism to real people.

Is Sutton "for" or "against" disabled? Groups disagree

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 27, 2003 -- Disability rights groups opposing the confirmation of Ohio attorney Jeffry Sutton to the federal bench have stepped up efforts in the final days before the hearing, slated for Wednesday. Over 75 national disability and civil rights groups have signed a petition against Sutton's confirmation -- as have hundreds of state and regional groups (see list).

Two disability groups have gone on record supporting Sutton, though -- they say they believe that Sutton isn't against disabled people, despite his argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in the Garrett case that Congress had no right to tell states they must not discriminate against people with disabilities in hiring.

"His nomination was not a compelling one for us to oppose," said National Organization on Disability spokesperson Brewster Thackeray. "That is why N.O.D. removed its name from the list of groups opposing him." The organization had originally signed the petition opposing the nomination "because the initial evidence presented suggested that Mr. Sutton was an outspoken opponent to the ADA." In the meantime, Sutton met with N.O.D. head Alan Reich, who became convinced, he said, that "as a judge he will make fair decisions and will serve well those who come before him, including those with disabilities."

"Mr. Sutton compellingly stated that he supports the ADA and does not want to weaken it," said N.O.D. Those who support Sutton frequently cite the case of Cheryl Fischer, a blind woman who was denied admission to Case Western Reserve Medical School, whom Sutton successfully represented. Sutton also represented the National Coalition of Students with Disabilities in a voting rights suit.

In a letter to the Judiciary Committee supporting the nomination, N.C.S.D. director Sean Jahanmir says Sutton's argument in Garrett "was not offensive to persons with disabilities. He was not arguing persons with disabilities should not have a remedy for discrimination. Rather, he merely argued a state government should not be subject to suit in federal court and could not be sued for damages." The group says "it is grossly unfair to blame Jeffrey Sutton for this situation."

Jim Ward, of ADA Watch, which has been spearheading the campaign against Sutton, told the Dayton Daily News that the issue of whether Sutton was or wasn't "prejudiced against disabilities" is "not at all what this is all about," but rather that the fight was about the ideology Sutton represents.

"Jeffrey Sutton has a record of advocacy hostile to the interests of the disability community," insists the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, referring to Sutton's record. "He has not simply taken an unpopular position in the name of zealously representing a client. Instead, he has aggressively pursued a national role as the leading advocate for a group of far-right legal theorists attempting to limit Congress's power to protect individuals' civil rights. He has acknowledged that he is "on the lookout" for cases where he can present this view, and he has devoted his career to advancing the cause of federalism.

"Sutton argued that the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were 'not needed' to remedy discrimination by states against people with disabilities," says the group, referring to his arguments in the Garrett case. "He also argued that Medicaid rights are unenforceable by individual recipients."

Sutton's claim to groups like N.O.D. and N.C.S.D. that he is not attacking disability rights, but instead merely advancing a theory of limited government, are spurious, say those fighting the confirmation.

"Sutton's arguments can, and no doubt will, be extended to claim that rights under the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are unenforceable as well," says the Bazelon Center. "Instead of Congress extending protections through federal civil rights laws, Sutton believes that states should be the "principal bulwark in protecting civil liberties" -- a statement that has grave implications given the massive record of state-sanctioned discrimination against individuals with disabilities."

Read more about state discrimination against people with disabilities

Act now to keep Sutton off 6th Circuit, say activists

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 22, 2003 -- On Wed., Jan. 29, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the nomination of Ohio Atty. Jeffrey Sutton to the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (The hearing is lated to begin at 9:30 a.m. in Rm. 226 of the Dirksen Sen. Office Bldg.). Many disability groups, including the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, ADAPT, the American Council of the Blind, the National Council on Independent Living, TASH and UCP oppose the Sutton nomination (for a full list of the groups opposing Sutton, go to http://www.adawatch.org/sutton.asp#list ) The 6th Circuit includes Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Opposition to Sutton from the national disability community surfaced shortly after his name was put forward in May of 2001. "Sutton," says AAPD's Jonathan Young, "is the attorney who argued the Garrett case in front of the Supreme Court on behalf of the state of Alabama holding that the ADA was unconstitutional as applied to State employers in suits for damages. He also argued on behalf of the State of Georgia in the Olmstead case," insisting "that that ADA did not prohibit unnecessary institutionalization of two women with mental disabilities."

For the first time in many years, one party -- the Republican party -- controls the process of nominating and confirming new federal judges. Because Democrats controlled the Judiciary Committee until the past fall's elections, opponents of Sutton were able to delay Congressional action on the nomination. But the Republican victories last fall will now make it easier for Bush to get his choices approved.

Wasting no time, Republican leadership of the Judiciary Committee has moved to hold hearings. Sutton's is among the first. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has more open seats -- six of 16 --than any other federal court. Conservatives and liberals both see the 6th Circuit as a kind of litmus test for the rest of the country, one that will reveal just how far to the right Bush's nominees will push the nation's federal courts. This year, the 6th Circuit will decide some very high-profile issues, from the legality of partial-birth abortion to the posting of the Ten Commandments in public places.

"Sutton opposes the Olmstead Decision, the ADA, and individuals' rights to enforce Medicaid benefits," says Mark Derry, an advocate and access consultant. "Since federal judges are appointed to lifetime terms on the courts, if Sutton and other judges holding similar views are appointed, we may lose many critical rights that we have gained over the last several decades. Once a bad precedence is set in the federal courts, it sometimes takes generations to undo the damage.

"Jeffrey Sutton is not the only appointment the disability community should be concerned with, but HE IS THE FIRST.

"The disability community needs to come out on this one. Call your legislators, call the White House, let your voices be heard! Sign on to petitions, make calls, and please show others how to make their voices heard. Let Washington know that we will not sit idly by and watch yet another ultra-conservative Federal Court judge undo our rights! Contact NCD, NCIL, the AAPD, or the ADAWatch web sites for background information on Sutton and information you need to be an effective advocate for your civil rights!"

What you can do to oppose Sutton's appointment:

"I was told that the White House has not been hearing from the disability community on these issues," says Derry. "You might want to direct some of your attention in this matter to Troy Justesen, White House Disability Liason (Email - Troy_justesen@opd.eop.gov and Fax -- 202-456-2546)".

You should also:

1) Contact the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and express opposition to the Sutton nomination. Use the list below, and if you can do nothing else, at least send them emails (however many elected officials ignore emails, so if you can fax a letter, it would be better. It is likely too late for letters sent by postal mail, say organizers). If you can't send a fax, make a phone call and leave a message. Urge them to vote against the nomination. If your senator is on the Judiciary Committee (see list below), it is particularly important that they hear from you, their constituents.

2) Write to the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and the incoming Ranking Minority Leader, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). These letters should point out Sutton's lack of support for the ADA and the importance of civil rights protections Americans with disabilities.

List of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee

** all addresses are "Washington, DC 20510".

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) (Chairman)
104 Hart Senate Office Building
202- 224-5251

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) (Ranking Minority Member) Senate Judiciary Committee
433 Russell Senate Office Building
202- 224-4242

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)
317 Russell Senate Office Building
202- 224-4543

Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-DE)
221 Russell Senate Office Building
202- 224-5042

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)
330 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-224-9787

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
331 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-228-3954

Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-WI)
506 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-224-2725

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY)
313 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-228-3027

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL)
364 Dirksen Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-228-0400

Sen. John Edwards (D-NC)
225 Dirksen Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-228-1374

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
135 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-224-6020

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)
711 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-228-1229

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
730 Hart Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-224-2207

Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH)
140 Russell Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-224-6519

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
493 Russell Senate Office Building
(fax) 202-224-3149

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
(fax) 202-228-2856

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID)
(fax) 202-228-1067

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