02:22 - Source: CNN
Trump nominee dodges question on segregation (2018)
Washington CNN —  

The Senate on Thursday confirmed President Donald Trump’s pick for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Wendy Vitter, whose refusal to say whether a landmark civil rights opinion was correctly decided angered Senate Democrats.

Vitter – who is the general counsel of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans – was confirmed to the lifetime position by a 52-45 vote.

Last year, during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Vitter was asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal if she thought Brown v. Board of Education – the landmark opinion from 1954 that struck down school segregation and the “separate but equal” doctrine – was correctly decided.

Vitter, in that exchange, would not answer the senator’s question.

“I don’t mean to be coy,” she said, “but I think I can get into a difficult, difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions – which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with. Again my personal, political or religious views I would set aside – that is Supreme Court precedent. It is binding. If I were honored to be confirmed, I would be bound by it and of course, I would uphold it.”

Asked again by Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, if she thought Brown was “correctly decided,” Vitter again declined to answer him, saying she didn’t think she should comment on which cases she agreed with for fear of starting down a slippery slope.

In follow-up written questions submitted after the hearing, Vitter would expand upon her answer, saying, “I do not believe that racial segregation in schools is constitutional,” and that she abhorred racism.

Judicial conservatives argued Vitter had declined to answer the Brown question because she believes that judges should maintain their impartiality by declining to put forward personal opinions on particular cases.

CNN’s Ted Barrett and Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.