Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 12, 2018

'Opposing Kavanaugh' by Lisa DeVille

Opposing Trump's Nominee, Brent Kavanaugh for U.S. Supreme Court Justice

By Lisa DeVille
Mandaree, North Dakota
Censored News

On Tuesday September 4, 2018 the Senate Judiciary Committee began Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings.  Kavanaugh is Trump's nominee for U.S. Supreme Court.  Republican committee members showcased him as the most distinguished and experienced choice for the lifetime position.  On September 4-5, 2018 Walter and I were invited by League of Conservative Voters to express opposition on Brent Kavanaugh in Washington DC to a few Senators and Indian Affairs Senate Committee.

But 1500 miles away from the Capitol Hill hearing room, Native people in North Dakota see through the ceremonial pomp and praise of an appointee who will have the ability to destroy Tribal Sovereignty and not adhere to Treaty Rights.  We know the truth of Kavanaugh's agenda and it could spell disaster for our people.

  • Native voters in North Dakota are in a fight to defend our voice and our vote amid waves of Republican led voter suppression legislation.  In April, a federal judge found the state's voter ID law, the second iteration after a federal court shut down the state's 2016 attempt, intentionally targeted Native voters.  The case has not settled in court, even as the 2018 midterms loom.
  • The state claims the voter ID law will prevent voter fraud, and yet, the state produced no evidence of voter fraud in past elections.  But we do know that efforts to pass voter ID legislation began after Senator Heidi Heitkamp won her election in 2012 by a narrow margin of 3,000 votes.  If the voter ID law continues to stand, thousands of Native voters could be turned away from the polls in November.

  • Troublingly, Judge Kavanaugh sided against voters in a similar case while serving on the D.C. Circuit Court.  In 2011, the Justice department objected to a South Carolina voter ID law that threatened to block tens of thousands of people from voting, many of who were people of color.  When South Carolina took the issue to court, Judge Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding the state's discriminatory law.

  • Kavanaugh also worked against the interests of Native voters as an attorney.  In Rice v. Cayetano, he co-authored a Supreme Court brief arguing that Hawaii violated the Constitution by permitting only Native Hawaiians to vote in elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a state agency charged with working for the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

  • Kavanaugh went so far as to say in a 1999 interview with the Christian Science Monitor, that the case "is one more step along the way in what I see as an inevitable conclusion within the next 10 to 20 years when the court says we are all one race in the eyes of government."  This is a strong indication he would be hostile to critical civil rights protections and to equal opportunity programs that advance diversity and remedy past discrimination. 

  • Although the Supreme Court sided with Kavanaugh in the case, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote an eloquent dissent.  He said, "There is simply no invidious discrimination present in this effort to see that indigenous peoples are compensated for past wrongs, and to preserve a distinct and vibrant culture that is as much a part of this Nation's heritage as any."

  • We must invest in ensuring the voice and representatives of Native people in politics.  Kavanaugh's record strongly suggests he would view respect for and inclusion of Native people with skepticism. 

  • Health care rights are also at stake.  By selecting Kavanaugh to serve a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, Trump carried out his threat to nominate a justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade and undermine the Affordable Care Act.  This will disproportionately jeopardize the lives of women, people of color, people with disabilities, and low-income families. 

  • In Garza v. Hargan, Kavanaugh tried to block an undocumented minor in government custody from exercising her constitutionally protected right to an abortion.  Over Kavanaugh's dissent, the D.C. Circuit allowed the young woman to seek the care she needed."

  • And in a case challenging the Affordable Care Act, Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion that would have kept alive a frivolous attack on health care.  Millions of people with pre-existing conditions might lose their protections with Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

  • Reviews of Kavanaugh's judicial record show he has consistently ruled against protections for the environment and endangered species.  And time and time  again, he has sided with powerful business interests that exploit our natural resources, the air, water, and forests that lend their beauty to North Dakota. 
  • Given the devastating standoff over the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline that unfolded through 2016 on Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the possibility of a Supreme Court that is hostile to environmental protections should deeply concern us all.  After President Trump took office, he signed an executive order advancing the Dakota and Keystone XL oil pipelines.  Kavanaugh would rubber stamp this administration's crusade against wildlife and environmental laws. 
  • (Freedom Media Alliance)
As the effects of climate change roil the earth at rapid speed, we must curb its consequences.  Native people have a long and proud history of defending this land from corporate profiteering.  We have no intention of staying silent now.   
Kavanaugh does not serve our vision of a more just, tolerant, and peaceful future.  Our senators must show moral leadership and refuse to confirm Kavanaugh to the country's highest court.

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