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Civil Rights Leader Quits NAACP Over Judicial Nominee

Friday, August 08, 2003
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

WASHINGTON "” A Democratic champion of the left has resigned as a member of the NAACP, saying officials tried to strong-arm him into dropping his endorsement of a controversial Bush judicial nominee.

Los Angeles civil rights attorney and radio talk show host Leo Terrell (search), who has made headlines in recent years for defending friend O.J. Simpson, and speaking out against the Bush administration, accused the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (search) of "an old-fashioned backdoor power-play," and vowed to use his weekly radio show to incriminate the 94-year-old civil rights organization.

"How dare the NAACP tell me who I can or cannot endorse on an individual basis. That is the part that makes this so outrageous," Terrell told "I am going to tell the whole world what the NAACP did to me."

Terrell said he has been a vocal supporter of California judge Carolyn Kuhl (search), nominated by President Bush to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search). The Senate vote on her confirmation was postponed until September by Democratic opponents who cite legal briefs she wrote in the 1980s under the Reagan administration to suggest her record is too far to the right on privacy, civil rights and abortion.

Her opponents are backed by women's groups and the NAACP, who have been instrumental in rallying behind the Democratic filibuster of several other GOP judicial nominees.

But Terrell said he backs Kuhl because of her courtroom character.

"I am proud to support Judge Kuhl," Terrell said, noting that he has argued civil rights cases in her courtroom. "As a jurist, she was fair and she applied the law."

The split with the NAACP was prompted by a recent press release supporting the judge, and on which Terrell listed his own credentials, including that he has been doing voluntary legal work for the NAACP for 13 years.

The mention of the organization elicited a phone call Wednesday from the NAACP legal office, he said, and the tone was not conciliatory.

"In a nutshell, I got a call from legal counsel in Washington, basically saying I am not an NAACP attorney. I said I have been volunteering my time for 13 years," said Terrell. "They said that the NAACP does not endorse Kuhl, and I said, 'That's funny, because I do.'"

He said the message was implicit "” drop the endorsement or leave the NAACP off your resume. "It's really horrible, this is two guys back in Washington calling me out here telling me to drop my endorsement or don't call yourself an NAACP attorney."

So he decided to take their advice and quit.

"I support her 100 percent and I'm not going to change that," he said. "From a standpoint of knowing what to do, this was the easiest decision of my life."

Officials from the NAACP headquarters in Maryland did not return calls for comment on Thursday.

Terrell isn't the first black activist to put himself at risk of retribution from within the black establishment for endorsing the so-called enemy. The head of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus, Phillip West (search), announced in May that he would support the nomination of Judge Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Pickering's nomination was ultimately blocked by Democrats who said he was too conservative "” and hinted too racist "” for the bench. West's endorsement was met with staunch criticism from his black colleagues.

"Our strength is in the pack," said Mississippi Democratic Rep. Tom Wallace. "I don't think it's healthy for a bunch of us to go out individually. We need to ride with what the group stands for."

Ron Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute (search), said it is no surprise that the NAACP did not want its name used on a press release touting an individual member's personal point of view.

"You can always exercise your First Amendment rights, just don't put the name of the organization on it," he said, noting that most groups have the same policy. "This is no surprise. This is his private agenda."

But Niger Innis (search), a spokesman for the Congress for Racial Equality (search), a conservative black think tank, said Terrell, who is often his verbal adversary on television news programs, must have "gotten religion" and seen the light regarding liberal strong-arm tactics.

"There was a time when the NAACP was truly viewed as being non-partisan," he said. "They have become a totally ideological vehicle. They have gone from being the grandfather of the civil rights revolution to a political operation and a wing of the Democratic Party."

Terrell said he is disillusioned by the latest turn of events.

"It turned out to be a really phony organization," he said.
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I must admit that I feel the NAACP is a bit antiquated, BUT they seem as if they are coming around to the notion of worldwide blackness. Took them long enough.
Nig(g)er Innis and his father Roy are nothing, but idiots who have turned CORE into a shell of it's former self. They are both simply loud mouths who's ideas make no sense and babbling one couldn't even follow.
AND Leo Terrell is a loud mouth also. I've seen him on TV and he always has to interrupt, loud talk and avoid his point. I haven't seen too much of what he's said as being constructive. He seems like he's a person who goes with the political tide as it suits him and his career.
That's just my opinion.

Our people have made the mistake of confusing the methods with the objectives. As long as we agree on objectives, we should never fall out with each other just because we believe in different methods, or tactics, or strategy. We have to keep in mind at all times that we are not fighting for separation. We are fighting for recognition as free humans in this society
Malcolm X, 1965
I familiar with Leo Terrell and I think he is a good brother. Brother has done volunteer legal work for the NAACP for 13 years and has not wavered in his duty. He has argued many cases and has won many cases. This brother always yells when he talks, I don't know why but he always seem like he is on the edge, I bet it would be great to see him in the court room.

The NAACP is definitely wrong in this case, if they are not going to support a judge we would hope it was because of their judicial record, or refusal to answer certain questions as in the case of Estrada and Pickering. The NAACP should not be involved in partisan politics and allow the Democratic Party to use them as they please. I have been a strong critic of the NAACP in the past and I am still critical of some of the things they do, however their existence is necessary and they still fight a good fight in many places.

I would hope that Kwesi would correct this problem and correct it soon. Also I would hope that Leo Terrell would have more discipline than he is showing and not allow himself to be used by Sean Hannity and the likes whom radio show Leo has been on the past two days for the same thing, to bash the NAACP.

If the NAACP can not articulate why they oppose this judge then it is clear they are playing partisan politics and its members should reject such from this organization

When our most educated, and best prepared turn their back on our community, stagnation sets in and the men and women who are not the most educated and not the most prepared become the example for those coming behind them. It is up to those of us who are not rich and well off but are educated and prepared to educate our youth and prepare them for what they will face when entering the world.

More to come later!

Your Brother Faheem
In Terrell's words, Kwesi and NAACP are 'bought and paid for' by the Democrat party. So true. And it is not just he who is leaving either, many influentual black folks are treading simular waters, voicing simular concerns.

I applaud the man for standing up for his rights to speak and do as he chooses. The NAACP might consider changing the name of the org to the NaziAACP. Shameful treatment for a brother that has contributed so much to both them and the betterment of black folks. He should be praised for the courage to speak out against them when they do wrong. His honesty is refreshing.

[This message was edited by sergeant on August 09, 2003 at 06:32 AM.]

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