my pissant two cents

Monday, December 06, 2004

incivility and rights

it can't be easy being justice cruz reynoso, formerly of the california supreme court, and presently-- for the time being-- of the u.s. commission on civil rights. despite a career that has had spectacular highs and decades of professional respect, he once again finds himself on the business end of a pinkslip. he's never been accused of anything but integrity and competence. in his high-profile job departures, he's been a victim of nothing more than crass politics.

as a jurist, he was widely respected as a sensible, progressive minority voice in the nation's most populous state. his list of honors would take all day to recite, and that's before you get to his honorary degrees and lifetime achievement awards. the problem was that as much as he was loved and respected by moderates and leftists, he was hated and reviled by the forces of evil.

they made him a scapegoat in california, voting him off the high court in 1987, in a purge of supreme court justices who did not unabashedly support the death penalty. they were swept aside in a massive statewide bloodlust that never really let up.

now, he stands to lose his gig with the civil rights commission, for which he has served since 1993, having been re-upped in 1999, and serving as vice-chair. monday, president bush announced that the terms for reynoso and the democrat-appointed chair, mary frances berry, had expired, and berry would be replaced as chair by gerald reynolds of missouri.

the move, however, is disputed. reynoso and berry contend that their terms do not expire until january 21, when the commission next meets. they have rules and bylaws that support that position, as does the interpretation of the staff director-- a democratic-appointee who also got pink-slipped-- which is also a likely point of contention. the white house, however, believes that the term ends from the anniversary date of the appointment. get ready for a dust-up.

why the hurry to get rid of two distinguished commissioners, just six weeks shy of a controversy-free departure?

well, start with the fact that reynolds is anti-affirmative action, calling it a "corrupt system of preferences, set-asides and quotas." bush tried to appoint reynolds to the education department's civil rights agency, but could not get senate approval. so, naturally, bush made a recess appointment of him.

but more than getting another sycophant into the bush white house, the purpose is getting critics out of it. it seems reynoso and berry signed onto a report highly critical of the bush administration's handling of civil rights issues. from the florida voter purge in 2000, to affirmative action, to fair housing and immigration issues, the bush administration has been building a bridge to the 18th century, and the two chairs of the commission did not let that slide.

of course, the republican appointees to the commission wouldn't join, so berry and reynoso, their terms just months away from expiring and no hope of renewal, called it like it is. when did that happen? last week.

it seems like georgie not only can't admit a mistake, but he can't handle when his mistakes are pointed out to him. show him his failures, and he pitches a fit. watch him brush off two real, great servants of the people, and appoint another lick-spittle to tell him how great he is.

if, as they say, you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, justice reynoso can't leave soon enough.

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