Are Civil Rights Groups Skeptical of Elena Kagan?

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By Jonathan H. Adler

Today’s Washington Post reports that some civil rights organizations are still trying to determine whether (or how enthusiastically) to support Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.  It begins:

On the eve of Elena Kagan’s Senate confirmation hearings, her record on race in the Clinton White House and at Harvard Law School is producing discomfort among some leading civil rights organizations, leaving them struggling to decide whether they want her to join the Supreme Court.

Their reservations have introduced the first substantive division among liberals in what has otherwise been a low-key partisan debate over Kagan’s merits to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. . . .

The National Bar Association, the main organization of black lawyers, has refrained from endorsing Kagan, giving her a lukewarm rating. The group’s president, Mavis T. Thompson, said it “had some qualms” about Kagan’s statements on crack-cocaine sentencing and what it regards as her inadequate emphasis while dean at Harvard Law School on diversifying the school along racial and ethnic lines. Others have expressed reservations about Kagan’s views on affirmative action, racial profiling and immigration.

Several liberal groups that are stalwarts on civil rights matters have uncharacteristically hung back, trying to persuade Democratic senators to press her on such issues during the hearings set to begin Monday. Some, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, say they are still trying to glean her beliefs from fragmentary evidence. Others have parsed Kagan’s public statements and actions and said they are uneasy.

Among other things, the story reports that some groups are put off by documents released from Kagan’s time in the Clinton Administration that reveal her disagreements with Christopher Edley on racial matters, such as whether Clinton’s race initiative should have included a ban on racial profiling.