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Estrada Not Representative Of Latinos


April 26, 2002
Copyright © 2002
THE MIAMI HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

I oppose President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada, a 44-year-old native of Honduras, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Republicans claim that Estrada's nomination marks a milestone for Latinos. But it doesn't, any more than the appointment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas marked a milestone for blacks.

I am of Mexican ex- traction, born in Los Angeles, and for more than 40 years, I have been involved in the Mexican-American and Latino communities. We have made a tremendous error in pushing Latinos for appointed positions just based on the nebulous identity of being Latinos.

Estrada does not identify with the struggles or aspirations of most U.S. Latinos. He appears not to have experienced discrimination or unequal educational experiences. He has opposed affirmative action and sided with large corporate interests.

• As an attorney with the Washington office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Estrada has represented HMOs sued by patients and doctors. In Aetna U.S. Healthcare vs. Lazorko, the HMO was sued by the husband of a schizophrenic woman whose doctor refused to hospitalize her, and she then committed suicide. Her husband claimed that the financial disincentives the HMO placed on his wife's doctor discouraged him from treating her mental illness. To avoid state liability, Aetna moved the case to federal court and claimed that federal law did not allow a patient to sue her HMO for medical malpractice even if the HMO acted wrongfully.

• As an attorney in the solicitor general's office, Estrada submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the U.S. government in United Mine Workers of America vs. Bagwell. Had a Virginia judge violated the union's due-process rights by imposing $52 million in contempt fines without conducting a jury trial? The fines were imposed during a violent labor strike while the union was under a court injunction barring violence. If the fine were levied in a criminal matter, the union would be entitled to a criminal jury trial. A contempt fine is considered civil if it either coerces a defendant into compliance with a court order or compensates the complainant for losses.

The Supreme Court ultimately rejected Estrada's position, ruling that the actions of the union were criminal and imposing fines without a jury trial violated the Constitution.

• Even more troubling: Estrada is a member of the Federalist Society, an ultraright legal network. Its founders include the Pioneer Fund, which subsidizes research on race and intelligence, and the John M. Olin Foundation, which opposes the interests of Latinos in matters dealing with race, ethnicity, immigration and affirmative action.

Also, Estrada has no judicial experience or the temperament to be a good judge.

We cannot afford to have people in high office who do not know our community, who are not a part of it, yet who can be considered representatives for Latinos by virtue of having a Spanish surname.

The administration's tactic is insidious. Bush is seeking to appoint to a high court an unrepresentative member of a minority, one who does not have our interests at heart.

This appointment would be a step backward for Latinos.

Rodolfo F. Acuña is professor of Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge. He is the author Any- thing But Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles.\

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