ACLU of Maryland and Civil Rights Groups Decry Postponement of Vote on Landmark Racial Profiling Settlement
BALTIMORE-The ACLU of Maryland and civil rights groups today accused state officials of foot-dragging after Governor-elect Robert Ehrlich postponed a vote to settle a landmark racial profiling lawsuit at the state Board of Public Works. The class action lawsuit brought national attention to the issue of "driving while black."
"We are deeply disappointed that this vote has been delayed," said Susan Goering, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland, which originally brought the lawsuit against the state. "Today should have been a joyous day for justice in Maryland. We hope that Governor-Elect Ehrlich gives this settlement, which is a national model for eradicating racial profiling, the credit it deserves."
The final settlement package-which has been negotiated over several years-was scheduled for a final vote today. The ACLU's lawsuit, Wilkins et al. v. Maryland State Police, was filed on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and several individual drivers.
"Justice delayed is justice denied," said Edythe Flemings Hall, President of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches. "This historic agreement to stop the illegal practice of racial profiling on the state's highways was speeding towards adoption until it was brought to a screeching halt by Bob Ehrlich."
"We have been informed that key advisors to Mr. Ehrlich want to kill this settlement, not review it," said Robert Wilkins, the original plaintiff in this action. "We have been working on eradicating this unjust practice for more than 10 years, so I am quite concerned that this vote was delayed."
"I hope that the governor-elect will review the settlement in good faith. We have been compromising and holding off on this lawsuit in favor of negotiations for four years. If the settlement falls apart now, the only option left is to have all the ugly actions of the state police explored in a public trial," Wilkins added.
The ACLU's Goering added that as a candidate for Governor Ehrlich asked Africans Americans in Maryland to elect him so they would not have to wait for racial justice. "We now call on him to do the right thing," she added.
A vote on the racial profiling settlement is expected at the next Board of Public Works meeting. The NAACP, ACLU and outside counsel will monitor developments and consider next steps, including possible litigation.