Editorials and Opinion
Democrats Must Do What They Can to Protect the Supreme Court and the Nation (People For blog, 01/19/17)
Paul Gordon: In a sharp departure from the norm, Trump last year essentially delegated authority for selecting potential justices to right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.... Yes, there is a vacancy on the Court, but there shouldn’t be. ... It exists only because Senate Republicans took the unprecedented step of refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland. ... During Obama’s first term and into his second, the number of judicial vacancies skyrocketed, not because there weren’t nominees, but because Republicans blocked votes indiscriminately. ... Majority Leader McConnell ended the year without allowing the Senate to vote on the 23 circuit and district court nominees who had been languishing on the Senate floor for many months, sometimes for over a year, after having been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee.
Editorial: Justice Department can't ignore bad policing (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 01/18/17)
"The Justice Department's thorough report detailing the Chicago Police Department's systemic disregard for civil rights is a sickening account of excessive force and abuse. ... Yet President-elect Donald Trump's choice for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, has criticized such federal efforts as overreaching. Whether it's civil rights or voting rights, Washington cannot look the other way when there is nowhere else to turn for help.... A Justice Department led by Sessions may not be so vigilant. During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, he expressed skepticism about the two dozen "pattern-or-practice" investigations the Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights Division opened during the Obama administration. Sessions was much more concerned that those investigations could hurt police morale and suggested the bad behavior could be from just a few rogue cops. That misses the point entirely and glosses over the systemic police misconduct in Chicago. And Baltimore. And Cleveland. And Seattle. And Ferguson.... Sessions is similarly disinterested in aggressively enforcing voting rights for all Americans."
OUR VOICE, GUEST EDITORIAL, Moral courage: standing up for what is right (Wilmington Journal [NC], 01/18/17)
By Marian Wright Edelman: Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) joined the list of speakers testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General .... They spoke on behalf of the majority, millions of Americans, who are afraid of a new onslaught of attempts to push the arc of our nation away from justice — and seek leaders vigilant and determined to keep fighting every step of the way to make America a better and fairer nation. As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day we all should find the courage to honor him by standing up for what is right to stop a Senator who has fought against racial justice over a lifetime from becoming the nation’s chief law enforcement voice. That’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
John Leguizamo: Jeff Sessions Should Never Be Attorney General (Guest Column) (Variety, 01/18/17)
"But the Department of Justice, the agency charged with protecting the rights of all American people, should not be led by a person who has failed to do that throughout his career. Sessions has a long record of opposition to the rights of many of the people most at risk in Trump’s America."
Here’s What Happens When Sessions Is In The Saddle At Justice (Huffington Post, 01/17/17)
Earl Ofari Hutchinson: here’s absolutely no hint, based on his Senate voting record, public statements and actions, and ties to hard right-wing groups, that once in the Justice Department saddle, that he will suddenly be a fair and impartial enforcer of civil rights laws, criminal justice reforms, and go after corporate abuses. The evidence is just the opposite.
Camden's police story goes to Congress | Editorial (South Jersey Times [NJ], 01/17/17)
"Although the Republican House speaker is not member of the incoming Trump administration, it would be welcome if his influence could tamp down the "police-are-being-handcuffed" rhetoric from some Trump appointees. U.S. Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions has made clear that he dislikes federal investigations into local police departments' alleged use of excessive force and civil rights violations, and Justice Department consent orders that so often prompt reforms."
AG Hearing: Grassley's Contempt for His Colleagues and for America (People For blog, 01/17/17)
"Whether Chuck Grassley opened Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing with a lie or just an inexplicable mistake, he chose a poor way to open the hearing, and it set the tone for the rest of the hearing.... But it was par for the course coming from a chairman who limited the hearing to only two days, and who scheduled it even before Sessions had filed a complete response to the committee questionnaire. (His initial submission was woefully incomplete and his second was still inadequate.) ... Grassley didn’t limit the back of his hand to Democrats on the committee; he treated a fellow senator and two House members with a disrespect that was surprising"
Sessions’ record shows no love for the VRA (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 01/16/17)
Bill Fullington: Claiming Mr. Sessions supports reauthorization could not be further from the truth. A quick Google search of “Jeff Sessions Reauthorize Voting Rights Act” provides facts
Letter: Flake should think twice about Sessions (Arizona Republic, 01/16/17)
James Hodgkins: Jeff Flake, by openly supporting Jeff Sessions for attorney general, is sending a clear message ... He is telling marginalized groups of Americans that they are unwelcome in this country.
Senator Flake is openly supporting a man who has attacked the liberties and freedoms of many Americans who are part of marginalized groups.
What MLK might say to Donald Trump (CNN, 01/16/17)
Peniel Joseph column: Trump and his nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, represent the post-consensus face of American politics on racial justice. By normalizing the demonization of predominantly black neighborhoods across the nation as unworthy of federal protection and resources, Trump signals to both ordinary citizens and political institutions the value that should be placed on the black folk who live there.
Sessions, meanwhile, has adopted less combative rhetoric but has called the Voting Rights Act "intrusive," prosecuted civil rights activists for voter fraud and expressed support for voter ID laws.
Letter: Garner should oppose Sessions as AG (Coloradoan, 01/16/17)
Michelle Gilbert: the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has known Sessions for years, strongly opposed his nomination, citing his reportedly longstanding associations with extremist, deeply racist anti-immigrant groups. He also has an abysmal record voting against women’s rights, including voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
[Editorial] Jeff Sessions and Martin Luther King: Our view: Nominee's past raises questions about future attorney general. (USA Today, 01/15/17)
"[T]he future of civil rights in this country will soon rest in the hands of a new president and in large part his attorney general, who must champion the rights of all Americans.
President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is a troubling one on that score. ... the nominee's encouraging promises cannot erase his often hostile record on civil rights, nor grave concerns about whether he will rise to the toughest challenges of the job.... there is enough in recent history to raise concerns. He would not be our choice for the job."
[Editorial] Sessions says he cares about civil rights. He’ll have to prove it. (Washington Post, 01/15/17)
"There are substantive objections to Mr. Sessions, for years an ideological outlier in the Senate, ascending to the pinnacle of the U.S. justice system. ... he mostly evaded specific questions about discriminatory voter ID laws, which the Justice Department must play a key role in fighting, and he was unenthusiastic about “pattern or practice” investigations against errant local police forces that have resulted in valuable reforms, particularly in the past several years. He pointed out that he voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, but his Democratic interlocutors reminded him that he also opposed fixing a core section after the Supreme Court gutted it.
Most concerning was Mr. Sessions’s habit of pleading ignorance to avoid taking clear positions on some pressing issues."
Letters: Ethics should still matter in government (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 01/15/17)
Marlee Pittman, Scoville Fellow at the Truman Center for National Policy: Just a day before Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’ hearing, the OGE [Office of Government Ethics] discovered he had falsely reported his involvement in the oil and gas industry, a conflict that could prevent him from running parts of the Department of Justice.
Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can’t Hide Disturbing Record: Sessions’ record speaks louder than his testimony. (Huffington Post, 01/15/17)
Marjorie Cohn: 1,424 law professors from 180 different schools in 49 states (Alaska doesn’t have a law school), including this writer, signed a letter to Senators Charles Grassley and Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating, “Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge.”
Jan. 15 Readers Letters: Pay close attention to Sessions’ positions on visas (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 01/15/17)
Jeff Markham: The dialog between Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-S.C., should be examined with great scrutiny by the press of Silicon Valley.
Like many immigrant communities who have made our valley flourish in both natural
and technological endeavors, those who have come to our valley on H1-B visas are as much a part of our vibrancy as the Latino brothers and sisters who construct our houses and thoroughfares.
Our challenges with this nominee are in the present. To harass our H1-B visa brothers and sisters affects us is an affront to the spirit of Silicon Valley.
Disqualify Trump's AG pick over voting rights | Opinion (NJ.com, 01/15/17)
Milton W. Hinton Jr.: I agree with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker:
U.S. Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-Ala.), not only should not be confirmed as U.S. attorney general, he should never have been nominated. ... Nothing the senator has said or done since gives any indication he realizes that his past actions unfairly targeted an entire community desiring to exercise its constitutional right to vote. Nor is there any indication he'd end his hostility to voting rights laws, given the power, authority and opportunity.
A Vote For Jeff Sessions Is A Vote Against Freedom And Equality (Huffington Post, 01/14/17)
Rep. Barbara Lee: Senator Sessions hasn’t evolved, or grown past his racist, bigoted ways. He has given no indication that he is not the same man who was unworthy of confirmation in the 1980s. Instead, Senator Sessions has spent his career distributing discrimination equally across the marginalized communities in America.
Senate should reject Sessions for attorney general post (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 01/14/17)
Amy Goodman / Syndicated Columnist: As U.S. senator, he voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and opposes comprehensive immigration reform, marriage equality and hate-crime protections for LGBTQ victims. He also is a fierce critic of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. ... Sessions has been consistent throughout his career. The Senate Judiciary Committee should be equally consistent and reject Sessions as attorney general, as it rejected him for a judgeship 30 years ago.
Editorial: Western issues not addressed by nominees (Longmont Daily Times-Call [CO], 01/14/17)
"Starting with the hearing for attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, the red flags are starting to become evident. In his hearing last week, a very small portion dealt with his philosophy on the law enforcement challenge of legalized marijuana in wester states. His response was to encourage voters to create the change in Congress, rather than trying to exercise their rights expressed in the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights."
Trump, Sessions threaten to betray King's legacy | Payne (Jersey Journal, 01/13/17)
REP. DONALD M. PAYNE JR., Guest column: Senator Cory Booker, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Congressman Cedric Richmond, and civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis made a strong case for why Senator Sessions' record of hostility to civil and equal rights should disqualify him to serve as our nation's chief law enforcement officer. They could not have been more correct.
Heed Coretta Scott King's warning on Sessions (CNN, 01/13/17)
Sherrilyn Ifill: We have now had two full days of hearings on Senator Sessions, and it is still hard to imagine a nominee with a more troubling record on race, gender equality, LGBTQ rights or immigrant protection than Jeff Sessions.
In 1986, Coretta Scott King remarked in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that as U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Alabama, Sessions engaged in a "shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters" when he unsuccessfully prosecuted "the Marion three," who were black civil rights activists in rural Alabama. Indeed, over his 40 years in public life, Sessions' record represents an unbroken line of hostility towards civil rights. As a senator, he has denigrated lawyers from civil rights organizations seeking federal judgeships, voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and against the extension of the Hate Crimes Act to cover LGBTQ victims.
Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts (The Hill, 01/13/17)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Inga Bernstein, a longtime private practitioner, for a judicial vacancy on the District of Massachusetts. Bernstein is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Bernstein on May 19, 2016 without dissent. Nonetheless, she languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Ms. Bernstein is an experienced, moderate nominee and the District of Massachusetts needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly hold her final debate and vote.... Warren and other Democratic senators requested unanimous consent to vote on Bernstein and nineteen remaining district nominees who need floor votes, but the GOP objected.
How Barack Obama Transformed The Nation’s Courts: He filled two SCOTUS seats and made the judiciary more diverse than ever. But the GOP stopped him from doing more. (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Jennifer Bendery: Obama will leave office with 329 of his judicial nominees confirmed to lifetime posts on federal courts. That includes two U.S. Supreme Court justices and four judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the two most powerful courts in the nation. Because of Obama, Democratic appointees now have a 7-4 advantage on the D.C. panel, and those judges will play a major role in deciding cases during the Trump administration related to environmental regulations, health care, national security, consumer protections and challenges to executive orders.
Obama also tilted the partisan makeup of circuit courts. Nine of the country’s 13 appeals courts now have majority Democratic appointees, compared with just one when he took office in 2009.
There is a caveat to his judicial success, however: When Republicans regained the Senate majority two years ago, they ground judicial confirmations to a halt. That has left 86 district court vacancies and 17 circuit court vacancies for President-elect Donald Trump to fill. That’s a huge number of court seats to fall victim to partisan politics. For some context: Obama inherited 59 district and circuit court vacancies when he became president. Trump is inheriting 103.
One of the Burdens Jeff Sessions Didn’t Satisfy at this Week’s Confirmation Hearing (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Brianne J. Gorod, Constitutional Accountability Center: At his confirmation hearing this week, the burden was on Jeff Sessions to prove to the Senate and to the American people that, if confirmed, he would have the independence and integrity necessary to serve as the United States Attorney General, even if that meant standing up to the man who put him in office. That is a burden that he utterly failed to meet.
Jeff Sessions Provides Slippery Answers at Confirmation Hearings, Thanks to Senatorial Decorum (Reason.com, 01/11/17)
Anthony L. Fisher, Associate Editor, Reason.com. Reason's Eric Boehm noted that Sessions got away with offering only "unclear, useless answers on marijuana" during the first day of hearings,... Ex-Reasoner Radley Balko posted in his Washington Post column a series of excellent questions pertaining to civil liberties and federalism that Sessions should be asked (but likely won't):
Sessions Will Follow the Law, But He Won’t Lead on It: Job requires someone who is aware of oppression and discrimination (Roll Call, 01/11/17)
Jonathan Allen: of course, the attorney general should follow the law. But it is deeply unsatisfying and basically meaningless. Every president’s Justice Department exercises discretion in its interpretation and application of laws.
In other words, there’s a lot of latitude in exercising the awesome power of the nation’s top law enforcement agency. ... What Sessions did not produce during the first day of his confirmation hearing is evidence that he pursued any campaign to curb discrimination in Alabama, where it surely existed during his tenure in office there. This is why I have always thought he is not fit for the post of attorney general. That job requires someone who is aware of oppression and discrimination and employs the power of the federal government to stop it. This is no matter of the past. With states moving swiftly to pass laws discriminating against LGBT Americans and crushing protections for voting rights, the principle of equal rights is under attack across the country.During his hearing, Sessions indicated that he couldn’t quite understand the difference between complying with the law and seeking to protect, preserve and promote justice.