Congressman Cohen Takes a Stand for Civil Rights

November 7, 2007
Press Release

“I certainly understand some of the concerns that my colleagues in Tennessee have, but the fact of the matter is that consent decrees are vital to enforcing civil rights, disability rights and environmental protection,” said Congressman Cohen.  “Cases involving police brutality, racial profiling and employment discrimination have been resolved through the use of consent decrees.  This legislation would terminate each decree without consideration of merit or ongoing need.”


Hillary Shelton, Director for the Washington Bureau of the NAACP, stated, “The NAACP commends Congressman Steve Cohen for his leadership in opposing this legislation that will undercut the effectiveness of federal consent decrees as a tool to eliminate employment discrimination, racial profiling and other civil rights initiatives.  If this bill passes, it will make it too easy for individuals and entities who have been found guilty of civil rights violations as a result of consent decrees to be excused from the necessary oversight that these decrees have clearly established.”


The consent decree was also crucial to saving the health benefits of 300,000 TennCare beneficiaries.  Had the Act been in effect at that time, these citizens could have simply been dropped from TennCare’s rolls notwithstanding the state’s legal obligations. 


Hundreds of organizations opposed the bill when it was introduced during the last Congress, including the Leadership Council on Civil Rights, a coalition of nearly 200 national organizations that includes the NAACP, the ACLU and the AARP, the National Resource Defense Council, an influential environmental activism organization, and mental health awareness groups like the Center for Independent Living and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


“The Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act threatens to harm the basic rights of American citizens,” explained Congressman Cohen. “And I plan to use my position on the House Judiciary Committee to block this harmful legislation.”


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 Contact: 
Marilyn Dillihay, Press Secretary, (202) 225-3265 / (202) 368-9275 (mobile)

Charlie Gerber, Communications Assistant, (202) 225-3265 / (202) 320-2817 (mobile)