Wednesday, November 18, 1981
The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
Reaganethics' hits the courts
Vol. XCIl, NO60
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Dismissing civil rights
W HY WAS ARTHUR Flemtming
Flemming, the outspoken Chairman
of the United States Civil Rights Com-
mission, was dismissed on Monday by
President Reagan and replaced with a
And while administration officials
have offeredkmayvcriteria which they
say were not used by Reagan to
replace the chairman of the Com-
mission on Civil Rights, they haven't
offered a very good argument for his
Flemming was not fired, the ad-
ministration claims, because he
accused the administration of actingin
an unconstitutional manner on school
desegregation. He was not fired, they
say, because he strongly advocated af-
firmative action programs. He was
not fired, they say, because of a recent
report the commission issued which
condemned police brutality.
Then why was Flemming fired? The
T HE SENATE voted Monday to bar
the Justice Department from using
federal funds to prevent public schools
from implementing voluntary prayer
programs. While it is true that, if
enacted, such legislation would have
insignificant impact, it is frightening
to see the Senate head in this direction.
In the past,, most cases challenging
school prayer have been brought by
individuals, and consequently, the
Justice Department has had little to do
with them, so, the legislation itself
would not be effective. But, more im-
portantly, the Senate vote indicates a
widespread attitude in the Senate
which could undermine the con-
stitutional rights of school children and
teachers across the country.
The Senate's vote indicates support
administration's answer is vague: he
was discharged, said a White House of-
ficial "because it's our policy as we
move through these appointments to
remove people and put in President
We are supposed to forget that this is
the first instance in the history of the
Civil Rights Commission that a chair-
man has been fired. And we're sup-
posed to forget that Flemming was ap7
pointed - not by (relative) defenders
of civil rights like Carter or Ford - but
by Richard Nixon himself.
The administration's story is weak,
as is the replacement of Flemming. It
appears,just as Flemming and a com-
mission representative have
suggested, that the administration is
really ousting Flemming precisely
because of his strong advocacy of civil
Flemming's dismissal appears to be
yet another manifestation of the ad-
ministration's blatant disregard for -
or blatant hostility to - civil rights.
By Maureen Fleming
Not content with reshaping the nation's
economic policy, the Reagan administration
is busy with a new ethics package, too.
Reaganethics, as outlined last month by At-
torney General William French Smith, is
aimed at judicial reform.
According to the plan, the Attorney
General's office should never approach the
courts with an issue that could involve a
decision about "fundamental rights." The
executive and legislative branches would
work together to create laws to overturn
disagreeable court decisions.
! AND JUDICIAL appointments would be
limited to those judges who promised to
change 'their politics with each ad-
Fundamental rights are-tricky. Smith says
there is a difference between constitutionally-
stated rights and those only implied.
He says the courts can rule on con-
stitutional rights, but must never decide
whether a person has the right to marry, the
right to sexual privacy, to have
children-laws take care of those issues.
ONE CASE he mentions is Skinner v.
Oklahoma. Jack Skinner was schiduled in
1941 to be sterilized because he was a chicken
thief and a two-time robber, a "habitual of-
fender" by Okl4ahoma's standards. "Habitual
offenders" were sterilized in that state unless
they were embezzlers, smugglers, or traitors
to the country.
The Supreme Court ruled that the law was
unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amen-
dment because Skinner was denied equal
protection under the law. He also was denied
the right to have children, which is implicitly
guaranteed in the Constitution.
Smith says the Supreme Court shouldn't
have been involved with the case. The
legislature should decide "implied rights."
HE MUST NOT have read the Bill of Rights.
The Ninth Amendment states: "The
enumeration in the Constitution, of certain
rights, shall not be construed to deny or
disparage others-retained by people."
When Smith attacks the judiciary as he did
last week, he is giving support to a growing
sentiment in Congress to overturn past
Supreme Court decisions. The callous
disregard for human rights implied in such
behavior is frightening.
Some court decisions Congress would like to
see changed involve desegriagation, abortion,
and affirmative action. If these are struck
down, the Bill of Rights will be seriously crip-
THE WORST aspect of Reaganethics is the
desire for judges to become political, to
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for such prayer programs in the
nation's schools. By endorsing such
programs, the Senate, in effect, is ad-
vocating organized religion in the
classroom - a clear violation of the
First Amendment. In protecting the
rights of the individual to worship as he
or she pleases, the government cannot
neglect the right not to worship at all,
something public school prayer
programs would do.
Fortunately, the Senate's proposal is
not law yet. It is only part of a
possible appropriations bill. Sen.
Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) has
threatened a filibuster of the ap-
propriations bill to thwart the effects of
the Senate's school prayer vote. We
hope Weicker will be successful and
will help maintain the well-being of
school children's civil liberties.
"follow the election returns," as
To suggest that judges should
trends into consideration is arro
fully, the judiciary is independer
a certain extent, ignore ridicul
from the executive branch.
The system of checks and bala
up in the Constitution'to preventt
'**'HR INNO TIME AT ALL, IT C'ASCLIMB TO AN
ALT ITUWE OF***~
ment, once the exclusive preser-
ve of secretive, dice-loaded
political pros, has been swept out
of the smoke-filled back room to
become one of today's hottest
Two new factors have wrought
havoc with the traditional rules of
the political gambling game this
year: minorities and computers.
BLACK AND Hispanic deman-
ds for fairness in political district
design have been bolstered by the
Voting Rights Act and now are
guided by a multitude of track-
organizations. This thrusts a new
nonpartisan and unbalancing
element into what traditionally
has been a two-party squabble;
Democrats vs. Republicans.
Minority demands in the reap-,
portionment process have been
greatly enhanced by the recent
universality of the computer. No
longer a tool reserved for a few
experts, computers now can be
used to design districts to suit
anyone's taste, down to a gnat's
blocks can be applied to protect
the cohesiveness of local neigh-
borhoods, to hold together
minority groups, to prevent
dissection of cities and counties.
A computerized argument com-
plete with printouts illustrating
unfairness packs a wallop no
mere protest or legal arguments
have provided before.
OF COURSE, they also can be
used to raise the art of
gerrymandering to new heights.
"Computers can open the door
for more sophisticated
gerrymandering," says Common
"Some wicked things are being
done," said Alan Heslop, a reap-
portionment consultant at the
Rose Institute at Claremont
College in California. "A wave of
gerrymandering worse than ever
seen before is sweeping the U.S."
FIFTEEN STATES have
finished drawing up
By Mary Ellen L
ROW Do rob V Ul kF mfpHIS W .E---
Smitji states. the government from becoming too powerful.
take political No administration has a right to change the
gant. Thank- Constitution because of philosophical dif-
nt and can, to ferences.
ous demands Reaganomics, Reaganethics-what next?
onces was set Fleming is a former Daily staff writer.
one branch ofDal
In California Democrats con-
trived to push their one-seat
majority. "A sham," cried
Common Cause, but it sailed
WHILE California Republicans
are retaliating with a petition
Democrat's plan, this state's two
biggest minorities, blacks and
PW 5 Hispanics, are locked into their
own rivalry overnew districts
that pit them against one
Said Verna Canson, NAACP
regional director in California:
"Whether this was done
deliberately or not, the two
eary minority blocs seem forced into
ios for Fair Represen- One legislative consultant
have hired a staff and protested: "We didn't bring this
their own political scien- about. We just counted people
mputer experts, accoun- where they live, and in many
nd lawyers to create the areas, especially around Los
r opposing that state's Angeles, Hispanics are moving
ting plans. into and even dominating neigh-
JAACP, which is ahead of borhoods formerly all black."
cs in political know-how, SOME OBSERVERS fear this
g the same computer ap- kind of mpinority bloc confron-
"We may not get tation may spread across the
y what we want, but this country through the '80s if it is
tion gives us bargaining built into reapportionment.
said Althea Simmons, It is curious that the efficacy ofW
of the NAACP the Voting Rights Act is being
ton office. tested with this year's reappor-
rse, many of the disputes tionment process just as
g up across the country Congress is debating whether to'
ditionally partisan. In extend it. Many think reappor-
na, where Democrats tionment will prove conclusively
d to solidify their how much the act is needed.
., Republicans have a "Whatever Congress does
drive under way to ask about the future, the Voting
repeal. In Illinois Rights Act is law right now," saidW
rs literally got into fist the NAACP's Simmons. "We see
ier redistricting. Indiana reapportionment closely linked
cans, who dominate the with that act. Where we find
gislature, used the com- discrimination, we will turn to
kills of pollster Robert the Departrpent of Justice."
But increasingly powerful
minority groups have other fac-
tors going for them this year,
especially the Supreme Court's
1979 affirmation of provisions of
the Voting Rights Act aimed at
insuring fair minority represen-
In addition, a number of states
have reformed their redistricting
porcesses to ensure such things
as contiguity (districts cannot
minority bloc protection, and
CONSEQUENTLY, FOR the
first time, substantial interests
are intervening in a process
previously thought too
mysterious and arcane to
quicken a citizen's pulse.
In Texas, which gains three
new congressional seats because
of population shifts to the Sun
Belt, a coalition of minority
groups has establlished its own
computer center to challenge the
congressional districting plan for
They are carrying their objec-
tions both to federal courts and to
the Civil Rights Section of the
Department of Justice.
IN VIRGINIA the National
ssociation for the Advancement
of Colored People, along with the
Market Opinion Resear-
which seemed sure to
rm that state's
atic edge of 6-5 into a
an majority of 7-3.
Leary is a regular con-
tributor to the Economist
magazine. She wrote this ar-
ticle for Pacific News Service.
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