The Senate voted 52-41 (7 senators did not vote) on April 29, 2003 to confirm Jeffrey A. Sutton to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on January 29, 2003, on Sutton’s nomination, and it was approved in committee on February 13, 2003 by a vote of 11-8. 

Sutton has sought to dismantle legal protections for the disabled under his theory of states’ rights federalism, a theory that many believe would also undermine Roe v. Wade.

Sutton’s nomination is one in a series intended to pack the court with judges sympathetic to an ideological agenda that includes overturning Roe v. Wade, without a thorough airing of their views. His hearing was held in conjunction with two other Circuit Court nominees and is moving quickly towards a confirmation vote. This accelerated process does not allow for adequate time for careful scrutiny of this nominee’s record and judicial philosophy so that senators can fulfill their constitutional duty to advise and consent on the suitability of judicial nominees for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.

Who is Jeffrey Sutton?

  • Jeffrey Sutton was born in 1960 in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. He received a BA degree in 1983 from Williams College and a JD in 1990 from Ohio State University College of Law.
  • From 1990-1991, he served as a law clerk to Judge Thomas Meskill of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and from 1991-1992, he clerked for Supreme Court Justices Lewis Powell and Antonin Scalia.
  • From 1992-1995, he was an associate in the firm of Jones, Day, Reavis, & Pogue. Sutton became State Solicitor of Ohio in 1995. He rejoined his old law firm in 1996 as partner and counsel in 1996.
  • Sutton has also served as an adjunct professor of law at Ohio State University College of Law since 1994. He is a director of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group dedicated to stripping the federal government of much of its power in favor of states' rights.
      Why does NCJW oppose Jeffrey Sutton's nomination?

  • Jeffrey Sutton is a leader in the movement to end the ability of the federal government to compel states to protect the rights of people with disabilities. Many believe Sutton would use his theory of federalism to undermine Roe v. Wade by asserting that the Supreme Court was wrong to take regulation of abortion away from the states in favor of a constitutional right to privacy and choice.
  • In the name of federalism, Sutton has litigated cases that would dismantle the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and other civil rights provisions that require states not to discriminate against people with disabilities and that provide individuals with the tools to fight such discrimination. Sutton has argued that Congress could not empower state employees to sue their employers for damages under ADA, and he was successful in persuading a conservative Supreme Court to rule in his favor by a 5-4 vote. Sutton argued there was no evidence of unconstitutional discrimination warranting passage of ADA, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary compiled by Congress. (Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett (2001) ).
  • Sutton also argued for the state of Georgia in Olmstead v. L.C. (1999) that states had no duty under ADA to provide services in integrated settings to persons with disabilities. He argued that confining people in restrictive facilities when restrictions were unnecessary was not discriminatory. Fortunately this time the Supreme Court rejected his argument.
  • In a third case, Alexander v. Sandoval (2001), Sutton argued before the Supreme Court that Congress cannot authorize individuals to sue for their rights under the "spending clause" of the Constitution – the clause that ties federal aid to anti-discrimination requirements. Again his view prevailed in a 5-4 vote. Basic civil rights statutes affecting race, sex and other forms of discrimination, including Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are severely constricted by this dangerous decision.
  • Based on his writings, speeches, and pro bono work, the positions taken by Sutton in these cases appear to be not merely those of a lawyer defending a client, but to represent his own views on the relationship of the states to the federal government and the ability of the federal government to protect individuals against discriminatory state actions.

Who else opposes Jeffrey Sutton?

ADA Watch
Alliance for Justice
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc.
Feminist Majority
Justice for All
National Organization for Women
National Women's Political Caucus
Sierra Club
Welfare Law Center
(list in progress)

Additional Information:

February 11, 2003
NCJW Opposes Nomination of Sutton and Cook to 6th Circuit Court of Appeals