Snubbing a Judge dishonors McCarthy & friends as they display hypocrisy of the lowest order…

Justice Joseph Woodrow Hatchett

News that members of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives decided to deny a motion to name a federal courthouse in Tallahassee for deceased federal Justice Joseph W. Hatchett tells us more about the snubbers. Justice Hatchett was the first black man to serve on the Florida Supreme Court. The bill, co-sponsored in the Senate by both Florida senators and introduced in the House by Florida Republican Vern Buchanan, was blocked for reasons that can only be defined as racist. This is further evidence that Kevin McCarthy has lost control of his caucus and his mind.

Judge Hatchett was a revered member of the Florida court whose history as the first black man to serve on the federal bench in Florida was 88 years old when he died last year. The New York Times describes the racist barriers that Judge Hatchett had to overcome:

A legal legend in his state, Justice Hatchett could not stay in the hotel where the Florida bar exam was being administered when he took it in 1959 because of Jim Crow laws segregating the South. When he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Judge Hatchett was the first Black man to serve on a circuit that covered the Deep South.

— Annie Karni, NYTimes, April 12, 2022

J.Crow 2.0 Alive and not-so-well

What is even more disturbing is that the bill was due to sail through both houses of Congress with little notice until a freshman House member pulled the plug. Andrew Clyde, a newly elected Georgia Republican, dissented because of an Appeals Court decision handed down in 1999 overruling a lower court order that allowed prayer at a high school graduation ceremony — a decision that was informed by the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Engle v. Vitale. In 1962, that Court ruled in a 6–1 decision that required prayer in a school setting violated the Establishment Clause. In the Georgia case heard by the Appeals Court, Hatchett wrote for the 2–1 majority, “We hold that the Duval County school system’s policy coerces objecting students to participate in prayer…”

As Clyde circulated the 23 year-old Appeals ruling, House members — including Buchanan the bill’s sponsor — suddenly withdrew support, denying the required two-thirds vote for passage. When asked why he withdrew his support after co-sponsoring the bill within his caucus, Buchanan responded. “I don’t know.” We do!

For apologists of bigotry among right-wing lawmakers like Jim Crow denier Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., the brazenness of his House colleagues in pulling their support from such a routine bill should be alarming. Blacks in America are not even allowed the simplest laurels for their achievement, let alone their name on a public building or a seat on the Supreme Court. How dare they! Justice Hatchett’s sin in their eyes was doing his job, and it ranks far beneath the toadyism and corruption of one of their own, Justice Thomas, whose career has been buoyed by his adherence to right-wing ideology at the expense of justice and the Constitution. The sophistry of those like Scott who excuse rather than challenge their party’s extremists was evident by his silence. Scott, who was so offended by Sen. Cory Booker’s reference to Jim Crow in 2.0,as Republicans blocked voting rights legislation in January, responded to Justice Hatchett’s slight with — — crickets.

Shameful legacies

Let’s consider that hypocrisy by pointing out the naming of similar buildings throughout the South for men far less worthy than Justice Hatchett. The following list is taken from an article written by Eric Kratz on Government Executive:

Judge Hatchett Honored by His Deeds

This list, of course, is hardly inclusive. It represents the low-hanging fruit, easily accessible and openly public. It doesn’t contain the public school buildings, college buildings, streets, or bridges honoring the names of dead racists. Mr. Clyde and Kevin McCarthy chose to snub a distinguished American whose life promoted the ideals of our nation on specious claims of being guilty of upholding the constitution they have trampled on during their tenure. The gutless McCarthy will do anything to satisfy the bigots and laggards who dominate the Republican caucus. He cannot offend them because they help pave the way for his goal as Majority Leader of the House should his party prevail in 2022. McCarthy relishes his practice of hypocrisy, both aware and uncaring, which makes him chief among his fellow lemmings.

Mr. Clyde, a Baptist deacon before being elected to the House from Bogart, Georgia (pop. 1326), is part of the insurrectionist wing of the House who voted against certifying Biden’s election the night of the the insurrection, and was later one of 12 House Republicans who voted against honoring Capitol Police who protected him from the mob on January 6 — an event he euphemistically deemed “a normal tourist visit.” To further demonstrate his disdain for justice and the rule of law, Clyde refused to shake the hand of a Capitol police officer who was beaten unconscious defending his sorry ass. If you wonder where he stands on civil rights issues, Representative Clyde was one of only 3 members who voted this past February against the Emmet Till Antilynching Act, which made lynching a federal crime.

Judge Hatchett doesn’t need the votes of Kevin McCarthy’s racist caucus to honor his achievements, his life and the inspiring story of how he overcame a segregated south to become the first black justice on the Florida Supreme Court is judgment enough. Mr. McCarthy, who defends the insurrectionists within his party and shamelessly seeks a reward for his naked ambition, is a relic of America’s past — an artifact of the rancor that has long threatened our freedoms. As long as they are in power, Jim Crow will walk among us. It cannot be allowed to seep into our future. History is often an unforgiving judge, and in the words of Joe Biden’s favorite Irish poet, there is always this:

History says, Don’t hope

On this side of the grave…

But then, once in a lifetime,

the longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.

— from The Cure at Troy, an adaptation by Seamus Heaney

We wait for the day when justice rises up and renders its verdict on our time. For McCarthy and his cohorts, they can only hope that the rhyming of hope and history brings justice rather than vengeance. And if history has its way, the name Kevin McCarthy will be spoken in hushed tones, deemed unfit even for placement above a Capitol basement restroom door.

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Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.