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Judging the Environment judicial nominations photo

A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Jeff Sessions crossed the line when he bashed a federal judge (San Diego Union-Tribune [CA] , 04/27/17)
Glenn C. Smith: It was bad enough when candidate Donald Trump gratuitously questioned the impartiality of Gonzalo Curiel, the San Diego federal judge hearing the Trump University lawsuit. (Trump said that the judge’s ethnic heritage would make him biased.) It was even worse when President Trump accused the federal judges temporarily halting his travel bans of purely political motivations and limited intelligence. But it was especially disheartening last week to hear random disrespect for a federal judge from the mouth of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who is, after all, the nation’s highest-ranking official with day-to-day responsibility for the rule of law. Commenting about the temporary restraining order U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson issued in Hawaii against the administration’s second travel ban, Sessions found it galling to be subject to a nationwide ban issued by “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific.” The remark was eerily reminiscent of President Trump’s earlier dismissive tweet that the U.S. district judge who stopped his first travel ban was a “so-called judge.”

Sessions’s aloha-baiting could bring attention to the real problem (Washington Post, 04/24/17)
E.J. Dionne Jr.: here is Sessions’s islophobic sentence: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” The obvious problem in Sessions’s comments ... is that Hawaii is a state like every other .... There is also the Trump administration habit of trying to discredit any judge who rules against it, the stuff of autocratic regimes. Members of the executive branch have every right to criticize and appeal lower-court decisions, but what Sessions suggested is that Derrick Watson, the federal judge in question, somehow lost his right to rule because of where his court is located.

Jeff Sessions is rolling back basic rights (Chicago Sun Times, 04/24/17)
Jesse Jackson, Op-Ed: Sessions has set out with a vengeance to transform the Department of Justice into a Department of Injustice. ... He expressed amazement that a “judge sitting on an island in the Pacific” could overturn the president’s order. That judge was a federal district court justice in the state of Hawaii, part of the union for 58 years.

Hawaii state pols find AG Sessions’ remark not so pacific (Newsday [NY], 04/24/17)
Dan Janison column: Geographically driven or not, there does seem to be a particular willingness by Trump & Co. to scoff at court opinions that frustrate them.

Trump hasn’t turned a corner (Washington Post, 04/23/17)
Jennifer Rubin, Right Turn column: His hapless Attorney General Jeff Sessions insulted the federal judge (“sitting on an island in the Pacific“) who enjoined Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban.

Why Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Is Unfit to Serve as Attorney General (Huffington Post, 04/23/17)
Bill Blum, Contributor: Further evidence that Sessions has no business serving as our top law enforcement official emerged last week, when he took an intemperate swipe at Hawaii-based U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Kahala Watson during an interview with ultraconservative radio talk show host Mark Levin. Sessions was livid with Watson—who is one of only two active federal judges of indigenous heritage—for issuing a nationwide injunction blocking enforcement of President Trump’s second Muslim travel ban.

Jeff Sessions dissed Hawaii as 'an island in the pacific.' Hawaii is not amused (PennLive [PA], 04/21/17)
John L. Micek column: being America's Attorney General is a demanding gig, requiring a mastery of the law, an understanding of the intricacies of politics and the ability to skillfully navigate the halls of power. But one of the things it does not require, apparently, is an understanding of basic American geography. Thus has current AG Jeff Sessions found himself in hot water over some intemperate remarks about America's 50th state .... Sessions was talking about the second of the Trump administration's thwarted travel bans, which U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson of Hawaii blocked,... it's not surprising to learn that its residents and elected leaders were pretty aggrieved by Sessions' dismissal.

Should we tell Jeff Sessions where Pearl Harbor is?: Opinion (Times-Picayune [LA] , 04/21/17)
Jarvis DeBerry, deputy opinions editor for NOLA.COM | The Times-Picayune: I do know that the merits of the temporary restraining order case won't be decided based on the judge's residence in Hawaii. We all should be smart enough to know that. Then how come Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general of the United States, seems to cast aspersions on the temporary restraining order simply because it was issued "on an island in the Pacific?"

Commentary: Trump’s rubber stamp on Supreme Court would threaten voting rights (Orlando Sentinel [FL] , 03/14/17)
Guest Columnist, Ben Monterroso, Mi Familia Vota: Gorsuch currently sits on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Colorado, New Mexico and other states, and has generally landed his judicial gavel on the opposite side of rights for workers, women, students or those who do not have the big money to influence elections. In other words, people who look to the courts to provide relief for wrongs committed by people and corporations in more powerful positions.... Gorsuch once wrote that “the left” uses the courts too much to protect rights instead of going through the political process, without acknowledging intimidation tactics that deny equal access to the ballot. So far, the federal courts have rejected the 2011 Texas voter ID law. But how would Gorsuch vote if the case reaches the Supreme Court? The nation should not face that prospect, and that is why we urge the Senate to reject Gorsuch.

Commentary: Trump’s rubber stamp on Supreme Court would threaten voting rights (Orlando Sentinel [FL] , 03/08/17)
Guest Columnist Ben Monterroso, Mi Familia Vota: Donald Trump’s election delivered a new line of attack against equal access to voting, not just with his unsubstantiated voter fraud claims, but because of his pick to head the U.S. Department of Justice: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.... Gorsuch has likened himself in judicial philosophy to Scalia. If that is true on voting rights, we have much to fear. In 2013, Scalia led the court’s 5-4 vote decision to dismantle the core provision of the Voting Rights Act ... we urge the Senate to reject Gorsuch.

Federal prosecutors have brought charges in cases far less serious than Sessions’s [Print headline: Sessions shouldn't get a free pass] (Washington Post, 03/05/17)
Op-Ed By Philip Lacovara and Lawrence Robbins: Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a seemingly false statement under oath during his confirmation hearing.... as lawyers at the Justice Department and attorneys in private practice who have represented individuals accused in such cases, we can state with assurance: Federal prosecutors have brought charges in cases involving far more trivial misstatements and situations far less consequential than whether a nominee to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer misled fellow senators during his confirmation hearings.... As any number of witnesses have learned the hard way, it is a federal felony to lie to Congress. ... Those elements all appear to be present.... Certainly there is precedent for a prosecution in this context.

Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings: His nomination to the Supreme Court cannot be separated from the serious questions that plague the Trump presidency (, 03/02/17)
Dahlia Lithwick and Sonja West: the Senate must postpone Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings until the investigations of the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia are resolved. We know that Michael Flynn lied about his conversations with the Russians. It now seems likely that Attorney General Jeff Sessions did the same. Thus, it makes exactly zero sense to take the position that Obama’s presidency was too tenuous to hold hearings while President Donald Trump’s is on solid footing—and we must proceed with haste. Nobody in the Senate can plausibly take the view that Trump’s claims to the White House are more legitimate, more publicly accepted, and more robust than were Obama’s in March 2016.... Having one justice serve under a cloud of doubt also threatens to harm the entire court.

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 (, 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], 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. (, 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.