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High court is target of protest over law clerks Few minorities hired, demonstrators say; 19 activists are arrested


WASHINGTON -- Protesting the tiny number of minority law clerks working at the Supreme Court, 19 activists were arrested yesterday on the court steps before a crowd of nearly 1,000 demonstrators chanting, "No justice, no peace."

Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, and C. Delores Tucker, past president of the National Political Congress of Black Women, were among those who peacefully offered themselves to police officers while trying to deliver the resumes of minority law students to court officials.

XTC No injuries were reported. Each of the protesters was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry onto Supreme Court grounds and was taken to a District police station for booking. Each pleaded guilty, paid a $50 fine and was released by about 5 p.m.

Of the 428 clerks hired by the current justices, seven are black, five Hispanic and 18 Asian American. One-quarter are women. The court has never had a Native American law clerk.

High court 'hypocrisy'

"We are here to protest the hypocrisy of the highest court in the land," said Mfume. The demonstration was organized by the Baltimore-based NAACP.

Supreme Court clerks help justices research and write decisions. Critics question whether matters that affect minorities, including such controversial issues as affirmative action and immigration policy, are addressed fairly when the pool of clerks is racially homogeneous.

Calling the Supreme Court's hiring patterns an "obstruction of justice," NAACP staff member Jamal Harrison-Bryant said, "We need to start impeachment hearings.

"How dare you tell the descendants of Thurgood Marshall that we don't have a right to work in the place that was built on our blood, sweat and tears."

Broad support

The noisy, impassioned gathering lasted more than three hours and was endorsed by a broad range of organizations including the National Bar Association, the United Auto Workers and the National Organization for Women.

As tourists streamed into the court to mark the first day of its 1998-1999 session, more than a dozen speakers rallied the crowd of every age and ethnic group. Many crowd members were students from Washington law schools.

"They seem to disregard the qualities and skills we bring to these positions," said third-year law student Caroline Philson, 27, of Howard University. "I came down here with a resume today. I'm looking for a job."

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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