NAACP plans to pressure Sen. Burr on stalled federal judgeship

jshaffer@newsobserver.comJanuary 25, 2014 

— The North Carolina NAACP announced plans Saturday to pressure U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in hopes of stopping the block on a vote of a Raleigh-based prosecutor’s nomination for federal judge – the first such nomination for a black woman.

President Barack Obama put forth Jennifer May-Parker’s name in June, making her the first black nominee and only the second woman to be considered for the seat in North Carolina’s Eastern District. The seat has stood vacant for eight years.

Under Senate rules, a hearing on judicial nominees cannot be heard without a “blue slip” from the home senators, which Burr has not submitted. His silence on the issue has brought him criticism for using a stalling tactic. In 2009, Burr included May-Parker’s name on a short list for Obama to consider, but Burr’s spokeswoman has said it is his policy not to discuss nominees.

“We’re not even asking him to vote for her,” said the Rev. William Barber, the state’s NAACP president. “We’re asking for her to be voted on. ... It is a travesty.”

Barber’s comments Saturday topped the list of the NAACP’s five-point action plan for 2014, announced before about 350 people in Raleigh at Abundant Life Christian Center.

On Feb. 8, plans call for a massive “Moral March” on Raleigh to protest policies pushed by Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican-led legislature. Opposition to new rules that require voter identification and limit early voting is strong within the group, along with objections to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid benefits.

Organizers predict the march in Raleigh will be the largest in a Southern state since the Selma to Montgomery, (Ala.), march in 1965 during the civil rights movement.

“We are in a battle for the soul of North Carolina,” Barber said.

On the first weekend of February, Barber said churches, synagogues and mosques around the state will hold Moral March services to mobilize their flocks for the Feb. 8 rally. This effort caps Barber’s statewide tour promoting the event, which ended in Burlington last week.

On Feb. 3, the group will hold a briefing in Raleigh in which scholars and policy experts will explain the costs and losses to the state as a result of policies put forward by McCrory and the legislature.

As another part of its plan, the NAACP will oppose the governor’s decision to hold a special election in the 12th Congressional district alongside the regular election schedule, which would leave the seat vacated by former Rep. Mel Watt empty for nearly a year. The group will also push for the release of documents in its ongoing lawsuit against the state over voter suppression.

Throughout the press conference, which began a day of training and workshops, the crowd chanted, “We are not going back.”

“Lord,” said the Rev. Nelson Johnson of Greensboro, “you have strengthened our spirit of steadfastness and justice.”

Shaffer: 919-829-4818

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