At CRC, groups share concerns over Supreme Court nominee

Rabbi Randy Fleisher speaks at a press conference at Central Reform Congregation on Feb. 1 in reaction to the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. View video from the press conference online at stljewishlight.com/multimedia. Photo: Eric Berger. 

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

Rabbi Randy Fleisher and some local nonprofit leaders did not have much faith that President Donald Trump would nominate someone who they could support to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In fact, before Trump’s announcement, the leaders had already scheduled a press conference at Central Reform Congregation to express their opposition to Trump’s pick.

The morning after Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia, Fleisher, a rabbi at CRC, told members of the media that Democrats would “respect the president’s right to choose a judge — as long as that judge is not extreme.”

There are some, however, who have described the seat as “stolen” and will not accept any justice other than Merrick Garland, who former President Barack Obama nominated for Scalia’s seat and who received no consideration from Senate Republicans. 

But the leaders of groups like Planned Parenthood, National Council of Jewish Women, and Council on American-Islam Relations focused on reproductive rights, religious rights and the environment. Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge, has been compared to Scalia, whose opinions were reliably conservative.

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“Judge Gorsuch represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never be confirmed,” said Alison Dreith, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, an abortion rights group.

The head of the Family Research Council told Fox Newsthat “evangelicals are going to be very pleased,“ but the Associated Pressreported, however, that a “review of decisions and writings by Neil Gorsuch…turns up no guarantees on how he might rule on the issue.”

Susan Witte, president of NCJW- St. Louis section, described Gorsuch “as an opponent of class-action lawsuits that are a critical tool to fight discrimination in employment.”

The court is expected to hear a case later this year on whether companies can require workers to sign away their right to pursue class-action lawsuits, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

“Gorsuch’s conservative legal philosophy has won praise from business groups that want to rein in government regulation and limit the rights of labor unions,” the Times reported.

The community leaders also focused on laws and cases particular to Missouri. The state has approved a voter ID law that is set to take effect this year. 

“We depend on the U.S. Supreme Court to stand up for elderly people and people with disabilities and people without photo ID to be able to vote,” said John Hickey, director of the Sierra Club — Missouri Chapter, an environmental organization. 

The court could hear a case on voting rights later this year. An opinion writer in the Boston Globe wrote that the “gravest harm” from a Gorsuch appointment would be to voting rights.

Hickey also mentioned a coal plant in Jefferson County that has been the target of an Environmental Protection Agency lawsuit because of pollution from its sulfur dioxide emissions. 

“We depend on the Supreme Court to back up the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure that you have clean air to breathe,” said Hickey. “So this (nomination) really comes home right here in St. Louis, and if you want justice in this town, you have got to talk to your senators.”