Thursday, March 13, 2003

Oppose Sutton

This column explains why:

So you don't have a disability, and you're not, like me, related to someone who does. You might think that the nomination of Jeffrey Sutton to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't mean a fig to you. You'll never get in a car accident that leaves you with traumatic brain injury, or give birth to a child without sight. And laws prohibiting race, gender and religious discrimination are not something you have needed to use.

But Sutton - and the reason people like me are fiercely opposed to his nomination - should mean a huge amount to you. He's a portent of things to come should the Bush administration continue its trend of nominating federal judges with a states'-rights agenda - especially Circuit Court judges, who are seen as being prime candidates for the Supreme Court.

Jeffrey Sutton is the country's most prominent crusader for federalism, a growing movement in which states are increasingly asserting their sovereign immunity from lawsuits based on federal laws. As Ohio state solicitor and partner at a major law firm, Sutton successfully used federalist arguments to restrict Congress' authority to enact civil-rights laws, including the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The way those of us in the disabilities community see it, Sutton's zeal for states' rights is systematically dismantling the ADA and other civil rights laws. As a result of his arguments in Garrett v. Alabama, decided by the Supreme Court in 2001, folks with disabilities can no longer sue state employers under the ADA. So Patricia Garrett, a former director of nursing at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center who was demoted because she had breast cancer, cannot take the hospital to court under the ADA.

Contact your senators tomorrow.