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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.


Editorials and Opinion

 

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The next GOP assault on voting rights (Washington Post, 02/13/17)
E.J. Dionne Jr., Opinion writer: The Senate rejected Sessions as a judge 31 years ago. But now that he is our chief law enforcement officer, holding him accountable for how he vindicates or undermines civil rights and voting rights is a central task. ... And the struggle for democracy is also at stake in the fight over President Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week of “an eerie feeling” he had when he spoke with Gorsuch. “Here was a judge, well-groomed, intelligent, very polite, very, very articulate, who wouldn’t give his views on anything,” Schumer said. This reminded him of someone else. “Justice [John] Roberts, then-Judge Roberts, assured us he would call balls and strikes,” Schumer said. “He gets in office, and his court does Citizens United, a huge break with precedent that ruins, ruins the politics of America. He repeals, basically, the Voting Rights Act by eliminating Section 5 . . . and I am very worried that Judge Gorsuch is similar.” The court’s action on voting rights made it far harder to police abuses, while Citizens United undercut the regulation of big money in politics. So if you wonder why there is skepticism among liberals about Gorsuch, consider what conservative Supreme Court justices have already done.

Opinion Mitch, please: Elizabeth Warren was criticizing a nominee, not a colleague when you told her to sit down and shut up (Los Angeles Times, 02/08/17)
Michael McGough: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will rue the day when he moved to shush Sen. Elizabeth Warren for trying to read a 30-year-old letter from Coretta Scott King critical of Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s nominee for attorney general. ... As a U.S. attorney, King wrote, Sessions had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten black voters.”... Warren was commenting on Sessions not as a colleague but as the nominee to a position in the executive branch; his character (as perceived by Mrs. King) was central to her argument.

Mitch McConnell can silence Elizabeth Warren, but he can't quiet doubts about Jeff Sessions as AG (Dallas Morning News, 02/08/17)
Michael A. Lindenberger, Editorial Writer: Sessions' record on civil rights is precisely the proper focus of whether senators ought to confirm him as the next attorney general. Many believe — I believe — that he has, on that score, failed miserably and ought not be confirmed. ... Sessions is a bad choice for attorney general, in my mind the most dangerous pick of all the picks President Donald Trump has made for his Cabinet.

McConnell must act, not just talk | Graseck (Courier-Journal [KY] , 02/08/17)
Paul Graseck, Guest Contributor: A vote for Sessions will broadcast to President Trump that Congress is unwilling to stand up to a President who condescendingly denigrates our Constitution, dismisses the importance of a separation of powers, and endorses a candidate for Attorney General poised to minimize the significance of decades of hard-won civil rights law emerging from the legislative branch of government.

Is Sessions ready to say no to Trump? (Washington Post, 02/01/17)
Opinion by Victoria Bassetti and Caroline Fredrickson: Sessions must provide a more detailed explanation of how he will insulate the department and himself from improper interference, and the White House counsel’s office should make clear its rules for avoiding interference with the administration of justice. This week’s confrontation with Yates shows how high the stakes are.

Jeff Sessions forgets he once wanted to execute pot dealers: Let’s jog his memory (Salon.com, 01/29/17)
JOHN DONOHUE AND MAX SCHOENING: When Sen. Patrick Leahy asked him about his past support for imposing mandatory death sentences on people twice convicted of dealing marijuana, Sessions smiled and claimed to have a foggy memory.

Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions (Washington Post, 01/29/17)
Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government. The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.

A vote for Jeff Sessions is a vote for Trump’s Muslim ban: Sessions has long advocated for restricting Muslim travel to the U.S. (Think Progress, 01/29/17)
Aaron Rupar: Sessions continued to speak out in favor of a Muslim ban throughout 2016.

Say no to U.S. Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions (Commercial Appeal [TN] , 01/29/17)
Bryce W. Ashby: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, has said all of these things and now wants to be our U.S. Attorney General. All of these positions are in direct conflict with the mission of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s objectives, legal precedent and factual evidence. It is because these beliefs and statements cannot be reconciled with the mission of the Department of Justice that the Tennessee Employment Lawyers Association (TENNELA) has sent a letter to U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker on behalf of our members opposing Sen. Sessions’ nomination for Attorney General.

Recuse, me? Two Alabama prosecutors blur the political lines (AL.com [AL], 01/27/17)
Kyle Whitmire column: In written responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions said he was "not aware of any basis" to recuse himself from potential investigations into President Donald Trump and Trump's administration. The "basis" should be clear to Sessions: While the American people are his client, the president is his boss. Recusing himself and handing over those duties to independent special prosecutors is the only way to ensure those interests don't interfere with each other. Sessions isn't the only prosecutor who is suddenly cloudy on prosecutorial independence.

Why We Can’t Trust Jeff Sessions To Be The “People’s Lawyer” (People For blog, 01/25/17)
Marge Baker: A number of events this week, including actions by President Trump and some highly concerning statements from attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions, make it all the more clear that we can’t trust Sessions to be the “people’s lawyer” tasked with defending and protecting the rights of all Americans

In Sentencing, Tough Is Not Necessarily Smart: Trump should not take his criminal justice cues from his attorney general. (Reason.com, 01/25/17)
Jacob Sullum: Trump's pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), criticized Obama's commutations in even stronger terms, calling them an "unprecedented" and "reckless" abuse of executive power. Sessions, who is expected to be confirmed soon, said Obama was "playing a dangerous game to advance his political ideology." Like Trump, Sessions conflates drug offenders with violent criminals. As Alabama's attorney general in 1996, he supported a mandatory death penalty for people convicted twice of drug trafficking, which would have been clearly unconstitutional.

Sessions misrepresents 'equal and impartial justice' (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 01/24/17)
Elizabeth Wydra: Sessions’ extreme views demonstrate a stubborn resistance to respecting the rights of all people regardless of income, complexion, gender, religion or any other status. Intentionally or not, he has turned a blind eye to the bedrock American credo of “liberty and justice for all” with respect to civil rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice, national security, and executive accountability to the rule of law.

Did Jeff Sessions Forget Wanting To Execute Pot Dealers? (Huffington Post, 01/23/17)
John Donohue and Max Schoening: Before the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be attorney general, senators should demand an explanation for the sudden bout of amnesia he had at his nomination hearing earlier this month. When Sen. Patrick Leahy asked him about his past support for imposing mandatory death sentences on people twice convicted of dealing marijuana, Sessions smiled and claimed to have a foggy memory.... In 1996, when serving as Alabama’s attorney general, he promoted H.B. 242, S.B. 291, a state bill to establish mandatory death sentences for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for dealing marijuana.... We teach and study death penalty law, but you didn’t need to be an expert to know that the bill to execute drug dealers would “never pass constitutional muster,” as The Huntsville Times then reported. That’s because by 1987, the Supreme Court had completely banned mandatory death sentences.

Jeff Sessions Won’t Even Say Racism Exists (People For blog, 01/23/17)
Paul Gordon: Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, has submitted responses to written questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and some of his answers are eye-popping.... Sen. Blumenthal returned to the topic in his written questions, asking Sessions if he agreed with a number of inflammatory quotes from far right allies he has worked with and accepted awards from. Some of these should have been incredibly easy to answer, yet Sessions avoided taking a position on any of them.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Black Celebrities Must "Be Fearless and Relentless in Speaking Up" Against Trump (Guest Column) (Hollywood Reporter, 01/19/17)
"Trump's selection of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General sends a clear message of where we stand. The guardian of equal justice will be a man who is accused of several acts of racism, including describing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as "un-American.""

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."

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.

Senator Jeff Sessions is Simply Wrongheaded On Immigration (Huffington Post, 01/17/17)
Ediberto Roman: While the senator has resisted barbs that he is racially insensitive, he has not disputed similar claims that he is antagonistic to immigrant rights.

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.

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"

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Jones: We can't let racism erase the legacy of Barack Obama (Philadelphia Daily News [PA], 01/11/17)
Solomon Jones: the first black president said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, only hours after an alleged racist reintroduced himself in his bid to become the nation's next attorney general....Obama is a black man who dared to look to the future, and Sessions is a white man who looks to be a relic of the past.... If Sessions can cheer on the bigoted statements of Trump now, Sessions won't mete out colorblind justice later. In the wake of the racial progress that Obama's presidency represented, Sessions represents a return to America's original sin of racism.

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):