July 22, 2005

Latinos Disappointed, Still Holding Out Hope for a Hispanic Nominee

President Bush’s nomination of John G. Roberts to replace Sandra Day O’Connor as the next Supreme Court justice was met with surprise and disappointment by many Latino civic leaders who hoped that the president would take this opportunity to make history by nominating the first Hispanic judge.

Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) regional affairs vice president Jimmie Reyna called the announcement “terribly disappointing,” reports a July 20 article in the Los Angeles Spanish-language daily La Opinión. A Hispanic judge, he said, would have been a major step “for the Hispanic legal community and as a result for the Latino community in general and for the United States.”

“Latinos aren’t hiding their discontent over the fact that President George W. Bush has not taken advantage of the opportunity to appoint a Latino to a seat on the Supreme Court,” reports a July 21 article by Spanish-language news service EFE.

The nomination has received criticism from numerous Latino organizations including the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). In a statement released today, NALEO expressed its “disappointment” considering the “the wide array of qualified (Latino) candidates to serve on the United States Supreme Court.”

The organization Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary (HFJ), has also criticized Bush, who it says “has decided to appease his conservative base by naming a conservative judge for the Supreme Court,” reports EFE.

It is not yet clear where Roberts stands on issues of importance to the Latino community. The Hispanic National Bar Association and other organizations are carefully reviewing his record, though Roberts has not addressed issues related to immigration in the cases he has argued before the Supreme Court.

“The court in the future will have to face some important issues, such as access to education for undocumented children, affirmative action, as well as voter and worker’s rights,” says Estuardo Rodríguez, coordinator of Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary, reports Uni-vision.

But many Latino organizations are still holding out hope that President Bush could appoint a Latino judge if there is another opening on the Supreme Court during his term in office.

“There is little doubt that President Bush would like to, at some point, make history by naming the first Latino to the U.S. Supreme Court,” writes Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas in a July 20 column in Fresno’s Vida en el Valle. There are conflicting reports, she adds, over whether there has ever been a Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, who served on the Supreme Court from 1932 to 1938, is considered by some to be a Latino. He was a Sephardic Jew born in New York, whose ancestors were from Portugal and England.

The debate over which justice would most benefit Latinos and all Americans has been playing out in Spanish talk shows and on the editorial pages of Spanish-language newspapers. The candidates thought to be most plausible are Attorney General Alberto Gonzáles and Judge Emilio Garza from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, both first generation Mexican Americans.

“Hispanics Support Latino for Supreme Court, but Not Blindly,” read the headline in a June 21 issue of Chicago’s Spanish-language La Raza newspaper.

“It’s not enough for the president to put forward a Latino name for the court,” said Maria Cardona, a public affairs specialist with the policy firm Dewey Square, in a July 15 Scripps Howard Foundation Wire article in the bilingual newspaper La Prensa San Diego. “What is important to us is that the person who ultimately gets nominated will be fair, will protect the rights of the people.”

Eugenio Arene, executive director of the Council of Latino Agencies in Washington criticized the new Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez for his role in providing legal justification for human rights violations against prisoners in the war on terrorism.

“I want to see a Latino occupy a seat on the Supreme Court, but I want it to be someone with a good record in the area of human rights,” said Arene, who saw first-hand the Central American civil wars during the 1980s in Spanish-language wire service EFE.

Writes Univision anchor Salinas, “As they were with the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Latino political and civic groups are once again faced with the predicament of having to decide if they want a Latino named to a high court or someone who fits their ideological mold.”

New California Media, News Digest, Edited and Translated by Elena Shore

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