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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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[Editorial] Jeff Sessions Smooth-Talks the Senate (New York Times, 01/11/17)
EDITORIAL BOARD: A large dose of outrage is certainly called for, given the damage four years of a Sessions-led Justice Department would likely inflict on the hard-won yet fragile advances made for civil rights, racial and gender equality and humane justice. The prospect is particularly stark coming after President Obama’s Justice Department, which has aggressively defended and expanded civil rights for people and groups who were previously unprotected. Mr. Sessions did nothing on Tuesday to dispel the understandable fears that he would stall if not reverse much of that progress. His defense against charges of racism that caused the Senate to reject him for a federal judgeship in 1986 was largely to say it hurt his feelings to be called racist, but his two decades in the Senate provide little hope that he has changed.... He showed little interest in standing up for the rights of the most vulnerable Americans: say, poor and minority voters disenfranchised by strict and unnecessary voter-ID laws (he has been a strong proponent of those laws, he said).

Inquirer Editorial: Cabinet posts too important to rush ethics probes (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 01/10/17)
"Hearings kick off Tuesday with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) who is up for attorney general. Sessions has called the Voting Rights Act burdensome legislation. How can anyone have faith that he will enforce it? Questions over his attitudes on racial discrimination kept him from becoming a federal judge in Alabama in 1986.... Thorough investigations and hearings can help ensure foxes aren't being invited into hen houses."

The questions Jeff Sessions didn't answer | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/10/17)
"As head of our Justice Department, one of the most important duties of the U.S. Attorney General is protecting civil rights, including the right to vote.... Given his past comments and dubious record, Sessions faces a high bar to earn the public's trust. He didn't hurdle it today, by leaving crucial questions unanswered.... He didn't rebut claims that he suggested a white lawyer was a disgrace to his race for representing African-American clients, either. Now, Sessions denies it all.... What matters most are his actions and experience, and on this, too, he's apparently changed his story.... Texas recently passed strict voting laws that have the same discriminatory effect, at least five different courts have found. How would Sessions respond? It's not enough to say that he cares about civil rights and voting rights, if he has a history of doing little about it."

Editorial Trump’s cabinet nominees need extreme vetting from the Senate, not rubber stamps (Los Angeles Times, 01/10/17)
"Democrats in the Senate are understandably furious that the nominees are being rushed through the confirmation process and insist they won’t receive the searching scrutiny they require....Another reason for greater diligence by the Senate is that some Trump nominees seem uncomfortable with, if not hostile to, the core missions of the departments they have been chosen to administer. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican nominated to be attorney general, for instance, would be responsible for supervising the Civil Rights Division and enforcing what is left of the Voting Rights Act — a law he once suggested was an intrusion on states’ rights (though he voted to extend it in 2006). Civil rights activists are virtually unanimous in fearing that he wouldn’t aggressively vindicate the rights of minorities; the burden is on him to convince the Senate otherwise. He also will, and should, be asked about allegations in 1986 that he had made racially insensitive comments, a factor in the Judiciary Committee’s refusal to recommend him for a federal judgeship."

[Editorial] As Trump Cabinet hearings begin, we need tough questions for Jeff Sessions (Dallas Morning News, 01/10/17)
"The urgent challenge for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where two days of hearings on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama began today, is to decide two things: One, whether Session's zeal to enforce the law will extend to laws he passionately opposed as a senator. And, two, whether he'll have the backbone to challenge the new president should Trump cross constitutional or legal boundaries, as many fear he might. a blandishment about enforcing the law will only go so far. The reality is more complicated. All prosecutors, including the attorney general, have wide discretion about where to spend their investigative and prosecutorial resources. When some laws are inevitably enforced with more zeal than others, it matters where the prosecutor's heart lies. ... 1. Given his strong opposition to President Barack Obama's immigration measures, how will he prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws? 2. How will he act as an independent force within the administration should President-elect Donald Trump or members of his inner circle violate the law? 3. Given his opposition to hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians, and to abortion, how zealously will he prosecute hate crimes and defend abortion rights?"

[Editorial] What’s the hurry on Trump’s Cabinet picks? (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/10/17)
"Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago over racially insensitive comments and has since compiled a hard-line record in the Senate. There are very good reasons why advocacy groups strongly oppose his nomination and why more than 1,100 law professors sent a letter to Congress declaring that Sessions will not promote justice and equality."

Bloomberg View Editorial Board: Questions for Jeff Sessions (Bloomberg News, 01/10/17)
"On immigration, illegal and otherwise, Sessions has been a critic. ... How would Sessions recommend that the Trump administration police abuses without shutting off access to talent?... How does he plan to proceed -- and how will he protect the due-process rights of those already in the U.S.?... undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. ... What moral, economic or legal goal is advanced by deporting them?...Does he have a strategy to reverse the Obama administration's policy of ignoring states where marijuana cultivation and use is permitted? If not, how does he intend to prosecute a crime that is endorsed by a growing number of states? Last, and arguably most important, is the issue of voting rights. ... How does Sessions propose to extend that protection? ... before voting they should demand clear answers to these and other questions."

[Editorial] Jeff Sessions draws a line between himself and Donald Trump (Newsday [NY], 01/10/17)
"Pressing the Alabama Republican on the inherent conflicts of the job is particularly important because he will be serving a president who has not demonstrated any deep understanding of the Consitution or how the nation’s legal system works. The results were disappointing."

[Editorial] Senators must press Jeff Sessions for answers during hearings (Anniston Star [AL] , 01/10/17)
"We suggest senators focus on the Trump videotape episode from October, particularly Sessions’ defense of the indefensible.... Trump brings a load of financial entanglements that clash with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against a president receiving compensation from foreign governments. ... Trump has promised retaliation against members of the news media he dislikes, the First Amendment be damned. ... The Putin government’s deep meddling into the 2016 presidential election is a sore subject for Trump ...However, Sessions needs to promise to follow where the facts and the law lead him.... We encourage senators to press Sessions on these and other potential constitutional conflicts brought on by Trump’s behavior. The next attorney general must be prepared to defy these unconstitutional whims. In short, he must act as if the Constitution and U.S. citizens are his boss."

[Editorial] Why the rush on Trump’s Cabinet picks? (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/09/17)
"[T]alk about the need for “extreme vetting.” ... The hearings start Tuesday with one of the most controversial nominees, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama for attorney general, the nation’s top law enforcement official. Sessions was rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago over racially insensitive comments and has since compiled a hard-line record in the Senate. There are very good reasons why advocacy groups strongly oppose his nomination and why more than 1,100 law professors sent a letter to Congress declaring that Sessions will not promote justice and equality. Sessions must reassure Americans on his commitment to civil liberties and voting rights, among other issues, and his views and his record must be dissected. But Republicans are limiting Democrats on the committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, to four witnesses and one day of questioning Sessions. Feinstein has properly called for additional witnesses and more time to judge Sessions."

Editorial: Ethics reviews needed for Trump cabinet picks (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 01/09/17)
"First up, on Tuesday, is the nominee for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions. His nomination is alarming not because of financial interests — though we should know more about them — but his core beliefs. The attorney general is charged with enforcing the law of the land, including pursuing justice even when states fail — enforcing civil rights laws, for example. But Sessions was deemed too racist to be a federal judge in 1986, and his record since on the Voting Rights Act and civil rights in general regarding minorities is frightening."

[Editorial] What Are You Hiding, Jeff Sessions? (New York Times, 01/08/17)
"If anyone requires a thorough vetting, it’s Mr. Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama who trails behind him a toxic cloud of hostility to racial equality, voting rights, women’s rights, criminal justice reform and other issues at the heart of the Justice Department’s mandate. Yet in their eagerness to act on his nomination, Senate Republicans seem unconcerned that Mr. Sessions, who has made appropriate financial disclosures, has failed to turn over dozens — possibly hundreds — of documents that the committee specifically requests in its standard questionnaire, including transcripts of speeches, interviews, opinion pieces and other public remarks. Mr. Sessions, who has suggested that judicial nominees may be committing crimes when they withhold relevant information from the Senate, now gives laughable explanations for the truck-size holes in his own résumé.... Even worse, he’s now recasting himself as a civil-rights hero who “personally” litigated several major voting rights and desegregation cases — a myth that Justice Department lawyers who dealt with him at the time have been quick to debunk, saying he “had no substantive involvement in any of them.”... Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s ranking Democrat, needs to take the lead in ensuring that Americans know as much as possible about the man who would be the nation’s top law-enforcement official."

Editorial: Shaheen, Hassan and nominees (Concord Monitor [NH], 01/08/17)
" Republicans stalled for a record 293 days to block President Obama’s nomination of moderate jurist Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in a strategy designed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With his usual shameless hypocrisy, McConnell warned Democrats last week that the public wouldn’t countenance delay but we expect slow action by Democrats eager to pay Republicans back for denying Obama a Supreme Court seat....Shaheen and Hassan will get a chance to vote on several nominees and they should, and almost certainly will, vote to reject any with conflicts of interest or an avowed attempt to destroy the agencies they were picked to lead. On others, they could do New Hampshire and the nation a service by lobbying Republican senators who are not inflexible ideologues, that would be a waste of time, but who have their own reservations about a nominee. Supreme Court nominations must still be passed with 60 votes and Democrats can be expected to filibuster a controversial nominee.... It’s not unheard of for a nominee to withdraw his or her name during or after intense Senate scrutiny. Shaheen and Hassan should make nominees prove that they deserve to hold the positions Trump has named them to."

[Editorial] Let your voice be heard to stop Sessions' confirmation (Philadelphia Tribune [PA], 01/06/17)
Philadelphia Tribune Editorial: The Senate Judiciary Committee should not confirm his nomination, because Sessions is the wrong person to serve as our nation’s Attorney General. His record on voting rights and criminal justice reform is hostile to protecting voting rights.... he would have the last word on voter suppression and police brutality — issues where Senator Sessions has a horrible record.... Contact Toomey and Casey and urge them to vote to reject Sessions.

Which of Trump’s promises will take hold? [Editorial] (Miami Herald, 01/01/17)
MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD: Of late, the Justice Department has addressed the problem of racial prejudice in law enforcement. Trump’s nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general is worrisome given allegations of racist beliefs against him. What has Trump resolved regarding reform? Americans should all be watching with unease.

[Editorial] War on women (Baltimore Sun, 01/01/17)
"Republicans like to claim that the party's "war on women" is a political hatchet job by Democrats, yet the GOP keeps providing evidence that it's real.... Mr. Trump's choices to be attorney general and to run the Central Intelligence Agency and Department of Health and Human Services all voted against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act while serving in Congress — supposedly because it extended battered spouse legal protections to same-sex couples. Yet the measure passed with bipartisan support, just not a "yea" from hardliners Jeff Sessions, Tom Price and Mike Pompeo. Former Senator Sessions and Representative Price also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.... another shoe will drop when Mr. Trump nominates someone to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, the position once held by Antonin Scalia and for which Judge Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama and ignored by the Republican-controlled Senate for nearly a full year. If the 21 names Mr. Trump trotted out as possible nominees during the campaign is any guide, his pick is likely to be white, male, middle-aged"

Editorial The Times Editorial Board's 2017 wish list (Los Angeles Times, 12/31/16)
"[W]e fervently wish for: ... A ninth justice for the short-handed U.S. Supreme Court — who should be competent, well-qualified and respected and who should be approved by the Senate without the partisan polarization that denied a seat to President Obama’s deserving nominee, Merrick Garland.... A decision by all 100 U.S. senators to put country before party and to subject Trump’s Cabinet nominees to searching scrutiny. Loyalty to the president isn’t a sufficient qualification to run a government department; he or she also must be prepared to enforce laws enacted by Congress."

Congress must act on voting rights [Editorial] (San Antonio Express-News [TX] , 12/31/16)
Express-News Editorial Board: President-elect Donald Trump will have immense ability to diminish voting rights at the precise time when the states have already embarked on restrictions. This poses a danger that only increased congressional attention to restoring the Voting Rights Act to its full authority can combat.... in his designated attorney general — Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions — Trump already has a true believer in the fanciful and convenient proposition that voter fraud is rampant. Not that his Attorney General would need much incentive, but Trump could push Sessions to undertake investigations with self-fulfilling outcomes that enable more restrictions in the states for minority, low-income and elderly voters. Think of more voter ID laws, super sized, and more limitations on early voting, same-day registration and easier registration generally — all abetted by Trump- nominated Supreme Court justices. And a Justice Department, which is supposed to act independently of the president, could refuse to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Tribune Editorial: GOP Senate refuses to do its duty (Salt Lake Tribune [UT], 12/30/16)
"This senatorial discourtesy was another example of the dereliction of duty exhibited by the World's Greatest Deliberative Body as its Republican majority dissed the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Antonin Scalia seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. Senate Republicans were never shy about what they were up to. Gridlock. For its own sake. Toward the end, of course, Republicans could claim, with no historical or legal basis, that what they were doing was holding those seats, along with more than 50 federal district and appellate judgeships, open for the next president. Who, they hoped, would be a Republican.... Trump won, and to the victor goes the spoils. Or at least the power to appoint. Democrats should consider those appointments seriously, rejecting those who are unqualified or extreme, approving those who make the grade. Come 2020, the Trump administration should be judged in large part on the people it hired."

Editorial The voters have spoken on marijuana. Trump ought to listen. (Los Angeles Times, 12/28/16)
Times Editorial Board: If that last statement gave a glimmer of hope to advocates of legalization, Trump undermined it with his nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a hard-line opponent of reforming marijuana laws. During a Senate hearing in April on how the Department of Justice was dealing with states that have legalized cannabis, Sessions declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” And he’s been a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that allow medical and recreational marijuana.... If Sessions does take charge of the Justice Department, he could reverse the DOJ policy and undermine California’s new rules. That would be a step backward. In most of the states that have voted to legalize marijuana, commercialization has ushered in much-needed regulation.... Trump and his attorney general ought to adhere to the will of state voters and demonstrate the kind of pragmatic leadership on marijuana policy that has too often been missing in the federal government.

Inquirer Editorial: Trump's claim of voter fraud was a sham (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 12/28/16)
"His disinformation campaign foreshadows difficult years ahead for voting rights, following an alarming trend among some states to frustrate voter access. Add to that Trump's pick of Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions has called the 1965 Voting Rights Act a "piece of intrusive legislation." If he becomes leader of the Justice Department, can voters trust him to uphold their rights? This confluence of events make it imperative that voting rights groups sharpen their legal skills to protect Americans' right and duty to pick their own leaders because a Trump administration probably won't."

[Editorial] Questions for Sen. Jeff Sessions, would-be AG (Anniston Star [AL] , 12/27/16)
By the editorial board: Senators must press Sessions on how he will carry out the job of attorney general. What are his views on the Voting Rights Act, a law he voted to renew in 2006? Does he plan to vigorously enforce anti-corruption and ethics laws when they come into conflict with Donald Trump and his business operations? Is he prepared to stand up to the fiction that voter fraud is happening on a widespread basis in the U.S.? Does he see newly enacted requirements for what they are — efforts to keep some eligible voters from the polls? Is he prepared to draw a bright-line distinction between the independence of the Justice Department and Trump, a man who appears hell-bent on settling scores with his political opponents? What are Sessions’ views on the First Amendment and a free press, an institution Trump relentlessly threatens? Likewise, what does he think of Trump’s wish to see libel laws loosened as a way to intimidate the news media? Perhaps most importantly given recent agreement among all U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, will Sessions aggressively pursue the Russians and anyone who aided this interference in our politics?

[Editorial] Jeff Sessions and Civil Forfeiture: The AG nominee should be asked about an abusive practice. (Wall Street Journal, 12/26/16)
"Democrats are wrong in most of their criticism of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. But if they or fellow Republicans are looking for a legitimate area to probe, they should explore his views on government’s use of civil forfeiture.... Sessions defended the practice.... The lack of procedural protection coupled with financial incentives has turned policing for profit into a slush fund for governments hungry for cash, and the payouts too often come at the expense of civil liberties. We’d like to hear what Mr. Sessions thinks of the practice today."

Editorial: Team of friendlies (Daily Press [VA] , 12/26/16)
"One of Donald Trump's cabinet picks thought the department he is slated to run ought to be done away with.... The one who would oversee enforcement of civil rights law (among other things) was rejected for a judgeship because of questions about his attitude toward minorities. It's an interesting way to "drain the swamp." ... The president-elect is not exactly filling us with confidence as he names the men and women who will be surrounding him in Washington.... To head the Environmental Protection Agency, President-elect Trump selected Scott Pruitt, another climate change denier who has a long history of filing lawsuits to block environmental regulations. In fact, he is currently part of a group suing the EPA. Thirty years ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship amid multiple credible allegations of racially charged comments. As Mr. Trump's choice for attorney general, he is now in position to be the head of the Department of Justice."

Editorial: A day to listen to our better angels (Chicago Sun Times, 12/23/16)
"President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, much prefers punishment to treatment for people who use illegal drugs, including pot. “Good people,” Sessions once said, “don’t smoke marijuana.” He did not say that decades ago. He said it in April.... unlike Sessions, we favor treatment over incarceration for most petty drug abusers. Prisons should be reserved for dangerous and monstrous people, of which there are plenty enough."

Editorial: Tech help, not backdoors, better law enforcement tool (Herald [WA] , 12/22/16)
"Despite bipartisan support, legislation is likely to face challenges. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, has previously supported calls that companies be required to create backdoors for law enforcement. Trump’s own positions on technology are less well known. What’s clear now is that there are enough challenges to protecting our privacy and the digital data that is now part of our lives. There are better ways to assist law enforcement than making that access any easier for crooks and meddlers."

Editorial - Donald Trump's curious cabinet picks (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 12/22/16)
"Trump’s picks fall into three categories: the good, the alarming, and the unproven.... The unproven: ... the question for attorney -general designate Jeff Sessions is whether he truly has overcome his once-bigoted views."

Editorial: A threat to voting rights (Albany Times Union [NY], 12/21/16)
"As states take steps to disenfranchise voters, the incoming president offers an attorney general hostile to voting rights.... Now comes Mr. Trump's plan to nominate for attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III — Jeff Sessions as he's known — who once called civil rights groups "un-American," a white civil rights attorney a "disgrace to his race," and the Voting Rights Act a "piece of intrusive legislation." His response to the Shelby ruling was to declare, incredibly, that Alabama "has never had a history of denying voters." So much for a Justice Department that would aggressively defend voting rights. It's essential that incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer make stopping Mr. Sessions' appointment a priority. The disenfranchisement of minority voters for political gain is a crime — there's no other word for it — that was supposed to be a thing of the past. It won't be, not if Mr. Trump is allowed to put a cop on the beat who seems ready and willing to look the other way."

[Editorial] Dems should stop griping and get to work (Journal Inquirer [CT], 12/20/16)
"Democrats should do all they can to try to block a new Supreme Court nominee unless the nominee is opposed to the Alito/Thomas/Federalist Society thinking that pervades the Republican segment of the court. The nominee should not be approved unless that person is less reactionary in his or her thinking. Certain Trump appointees should be opposed by a majority of Democrats and moderate Republicans because of their extreme positions. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a noted bigot, should be voted down as attorney general by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats — a coalition that passed President Lyndon Johnson’s landmark civil rights bill. Above all, Democrats should guard against Republicans passing measures that hinder voting rights, such as ID proof, poll closings, and shortened voting hours in minority precincts"

OUR VIEW: Senate needs to look out for nation's best interests [Editorial] (Bristol Press [CT], 12/17/16)
"Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has suggested that the U.S. Senate may block some of President-elect Donald Trump’s more controversial nominees.... At the top of the list that Blumenthal opposes are attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. for attorney general, because of his prior racist comments,.... we believe that members of the Senate also have a responsibility — to give or withhold their consent based on who will best serve the interests of the American people."