WASHINGTON — In a stunning reversal of its recent pattern, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights today rejected a staff-prepared analysis critical of a Supreme Court ruling backing affirmative action plans.
The commission, since its reorganization under President Reagan, has generally followed the Administration lead in sharply criticizing any program that appears to give preference to minorities or women at the expense of white males.
But on a 5-3 vote, the commission voted against publishing an analysis of the Supreme Court's recent Johnson ruling, which held that gender may sometimes be considered a factor in hiring and promoting.
The analysis, written by political appointee Neal Devins, the assistant general counsel at the commission, argued that the high court's March 28 ruling was incorrect and improperly extended earlier court decisions on affirmative action.
Commissioners Mary Berry, Francis Guess and Blandina Ramirez called the Santa Clara County, Calif., affirmative action plan upheld by the court "a rather modest affirmative action plan designed to begin the inclusion of women in jobs that had been traditionally sex-segregated."
Ramirez attacked Devins' analysis for its tone as well as its content.
"The nation is moving on," she said, "and the tone of the analysis is retrogressive rather than progressive."
Commissioner Robert Destro also criticized the analysis, saying that while he has many problems with the way affirmative action works, his "instincts tell me" that "in this case justice was done."
Voting to accept the anti-affirmative action analysis were Chairman Clarence Pendleton Jr., Vice Chairman Murray Friedman and Commissioner William Allen.
Commissioner Esther Buckley joined Destro, Ramirez, Berry and Guess in voting against accepting and publishing the analysis.