From the Worldwide Faith News archives

NCCCUSA Demands: "More Minority Law Clerks"

Date 02 Oct 1998 14:55:43

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the 
Contact: NCC News, 212-870-2252


NAACP Rally Set for 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 5, in Front 
of the U.S. Supreme Court

 WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 2 ---- How can a young 
Native, Asian, Hispanic or African American aspire 
to be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice if he or she has 
so little hope of becoming a law clerk in that 

 The Rev. Dr. Staccato Powell, National Council 
of Churches Associate General Secretary for National 
Ministries, will be asking that and other questions 
on Monday (Oct. 5) when he addresses a 9 a.m. NAACP-
sponsored rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

 His question arises from the NAACP's finding 
that of the 394 law clerks hired by the current 
judges during their respective terms, fewer than 2 
percent have been African American, only 1 percent 
Hispanic, and fewer than 5 percent Asian American.  
None have been Native American and fewer than one 
quarter have been women.  

 Each of the nine Justices is allowed up to four 
law clerks a year.  These clerks review all cases 
brought before the Court and help decide which ones 
the Justices should hear.  They often write the 
first drafts of the decisions.  Thirty-four law 
clerks currently are serving, including 22 white 
men, 11 white women and one Hispanic woman.   More 
than 40 percent of law school graduates now are 
women and nearly 20 percent are minorities.

"The law clerks serving the U.S. Supreme Court 
need to be much more reflective of the fabric of 
America," Dr. Powell said.  "Law clerks actually 
shape the decisions made by the Court, and we know 
how long it takes to get a decision reversed.  The 
1896 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson 
set a precedent for `separate but equal' public 
facilities for blacks and whites that stood for 
nearly 60 years before Brown v. Board of Education 
overturned it in 1954.

 "Cases on which the U.S. Supreme Court rules 
have an impact on an entire generation.  This Court, 
the highest court in the country, has the final say 
on such important issues as affirmative action, 
civil rights, access to education, workplace 
discrimination, and life or death.

"The NCC is an ally in this attempt to bring 
attention to this practice of prima facie 
discrimination," Dr. Powell said.  "This issue does 
not simply impact the discipline of jurisprudence.  
Equally important is the erosion of the Biblical 
principle of justice.  As people of faith, we are 
compelled to be prophetic in our call for justice.  
In the spirit of Amos, we implore the highest court 
in the land to let justice roll down like water, and 
righteousness like a mighty stream."


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