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August 26, 2005

ADAWatch spoke out indeed...

ADAWatch's Jim Ward has been sending me stuff all day by email. I'm going to dump the bulk of it here, because it shows that I was badly mistaken in thinking they hadn't spoken out. Oops! It's nice to know that Jim is still speaking to me. I didn't find this stuff on a search of their website yesterday, but I'm going to go back and poke around some more. Without further babbling, here's what Jim sent (with only a teensy bit of formatting edits):

Dear Mary:
Thank you for writing and bringing to our attention your concerns about the disability community's involvement in the confirmation battle on Judge John Roberts. Like we did in the disappointing battle over Jeffrey Sutton, ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights (NCDR)'s Campaign for Fair Judges has continued to promote the inclusion of disability rights issues in the judicial nominations process at the lower court level and now with the Supreme Court. Specific to Roberts and the pending vacancy, please find below a sample of ADA Watch/NCDR's media coverage in this regard including that of ABC News, New York Times News Service, Los Angeles Times, National Journal, Legal Times, and more. Our news releases of July 1, July 21, and August 24 are also included here and address respectively Justice O'Conner's announcement, our opposition to Roberts, and our response to Senator Specter's letter you cited in your writing.
In addition to researching, preparing and distributing the materials noted here, ADA Watch/NCDR (which is now located at and works closely in partnership with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law) also participates in weekly meetings of the Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary including the grassroots, lobbying and communications task force meetings to ensure that disability rights be a part of the larger progressive message in this battle. We also are a member of, and will be joining in a press conference next week, the "Say No on Roberts" caucus, a group of disability, civil rights, and social justice organizations already opposed to this nominee.
We are actively working to get the disability rights position included in the Supreme Court media coverage by building relationships with reporters, providing background information and reports, as well as working in partnership with the Communications Consortium Media Center (CCMC) who will be including ADA Watch/NCDR in a press conference next week. The Coalition for a Fair and Independent Judiciary, CCMC and countless other progressive organizations have been extremely collegial in supporting our efforts and advancing the message of how disability rights will be impacted by the confirmation of Judge Roberts.
But this is not just a progressive issue. This is not a simple left versus right battle. As you stated, Senator Specter, the Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, declared that the ADA will be further weakened by the Rehnquist Court's "judicial activism" and pledged to grill Roberts on our issues. His letter was widely covered by the media and the ADA made it to the forefront - at least for one news cycle.
Does this mean the media gets it? No. You are absolutely right in pointing to the media's coverage of social hot-button issues to the exclusion of covering the threats to mainstream and bipartisan laws like the ADA.
That you did not know about our activities demonstrates that ADA Watch/NCDR and our coalition partners must do a better job of promoting our activities not just in the mainstream but in our own community. I welcome your thoughts in this regard and also appreciate it if you can distribute this message and the materials below as widely as possible.

Jim Ward

ADA Watch/NCDR Media Activities and Coverage on Roberts:

Lobbyists Prepare for Battle, By David E. Rosenbaum And Lynette Clemetson, New York Times News Service, July 03, 2005: "After learning of the-O'Connor resignation Friday, Neas joined Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, and representatives from three dozen groups -- including the AFL-CIO, the American Association of University Women and the National Coalition for Disability Rights -- at a Capitol news conference to call for a "consensus nominee."

O'Conner Resignation Provides Bush Opportunity to Support Disability Rights, U.S. Newswire (Press Release), July 1, 2005: "On the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Jim Ward, founder and president of ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights stated, "We remain vigilant and hope that President Bush will put aside his previously announced intentions to nominate a new justice in the model of Justice Scalia or Justice Thomas -- both of whom have consistently ruled to weaken civil rights protections for people with disabilities."

Progressive Organizations' Letter to President Bush (SaveOurCourts): "Prior to the Roberts announcement, ADA Watch/NCDR joined progressive organizations in a letter to President Bush calling for a consensus nominee and stating: "As you know, our nation faces great challenges. Please, Mr. President, choose the course of unity by selecting a Supreme Court justice for all the people, one upon whom Americans of all political persuasions can rely to uphold their rights, freedoms, and legal protections."

Groups On The Left And Right Are Ready For A Tough Fight, By Paul Singer and Lisa Caruso, National Journal, July 1, 2005: "Among the other groups that may play a visible role in the liberals' effort [in the Supreme Court battle] are ADA Watch, a disability-rights organization that led efforts among people with disabilities to block Bush's appointment of Jeff Sutton to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit on the grounds that his advocacy of limited government would hamper limit implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act’ ¨¶"

ADA Watch Opposes Supreme Court Nominee Judge John Roberts, Common Dreams Progressive Newswire, July 21, 2005: "With the selection of John Roberts, President Bush is making good on his stated intention to fill a Court vacancy with a nominee in the mold of Scalia or Thomas -- Justices who have consistently ruled against people with disabilities in these and other landmark cases. If confirmed, such 5-4 votes would surely go in the other direction and reverse the historic gains of people with disabilities."

15 Years Later, Disabilities Law Praised for Transforming Lives, By Adrienne Mand Lewin, ABC News, July 26, 2005: "’ ¨¶Ward's group is opposing the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John Roberts, who the group believes narrowly interprets the ADA. Roberts won a case before the high court, representing Toyota against an employee who sought accommodations for carpal tunnel syndrome - a ruling that advocates say created a strict test for disability for people with other illnesses like epilepsy, diabetes and mental illness."

ADA Case Could Be Key Test for Roberts, By Tony Mauro, Legal Times, August 8, 2005: "The group ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights announced its opposition to Roberts, in part because as a private attorney at D.C.'s Hogan & Hartson, he represented Toyota Motor Manufacturing in a case that led the Supreme Court in 2002 to adopt a narrow definition of disabilities covered by the act. Roberts' "distortions" of the record in the Toyota case, the coalition asserts, have made it more difficult since then for ADA plaintiffs to prove they are disabled."

Editorial: Ball is Now in Senators' Court,
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 20, 2005: "Already, interest groups have sounded some alarms - alarms that deserve careful probes, rather than summary dismissals. For instance, the National Coalition for Disability Rights opposes his nomination in part because, as corporate counsel for Toyota Motor Corp. of Kentucky in 2001, he persuaded the nation's top court to narrow the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act. To win, he distorted the facts, the coalition charges."

BUSH'S SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: A Resume Strong on Business, By Henry Weinstein, Los Angeles Times, July 22, 2005: "Roberts' work in the case brought him praise from business groups but opposition from some advocates for the disabled. The National Coalition for Disability Rights immediately came out against Roberts' nomination, prominently citing his work on the Toyota case."

Disability Coalition on Judge John Roberts: Praises Specter's Concerns, Asks to Testify at Hearing, I-Newswire (News Release): August 24, 2005: "ADA Watch/NCDR's president, Jim Ward wrote Sen. Arlen Specter, Senate Judiciary Chairman, to request the opportunity for the coalition to testify in the confirmation hearings on the nomination of John G. Roberts to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. We thanked Sen. Specter for his letter of August 23rd to Mr. Roberts seeking his opinions on the "judicial activism" demonstrated by the Rehnquist Court, especially in regard to the narrowing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the failure to respect the intent of Congress in crafting this historic and bipartisan law.
Sen. Specter clearly outlined many of the concerns of the disability community in objecting to the Court's "judicial activism in functioning as a super-legislature" and the disregard exhibited by a pattern of declaring "acts of Congress unconstitutional notwithstanding the enormous evidentiary support for Congress' public policy determinations."

And there you have it. ADAWatch has been busy! I am glad, so very glad, that Jim Ward sent me this. I wish him and ADAWatch the best of luck in getting continuing media coverage in the coming weeks. I'll be watching for them in news coverage of the hearings.
I'll probably update this blog entry as I learn more, so... stay tuned. Any of you who know about coverage I missed, or who just want to give me info, can post a comment right here on my blog. That way, you won't have to wait to have me put your stuff up here.

Posted by mjohnson at August 26, 2005 04:13 PM