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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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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 (, 01/11/17)
Anthony L. Fisher, Associate Editor, 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):

Jeff Sessions is wrong for attorney general; he should be rejected  (Dallas Morning News, 01/11/17)
Michael A. Lindenberger, Editorial Writer: The Senate should reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general of the United States. He's manifestly the wrong person to hold that job at this time. ... His views mark him as a man of the past, and this country can't afford to turn back the clock on voting rights, hate crimes, immigration, or criminal justice reform. ... His unqualified support for law enforcement is a problem. ... Sessions supported the use of torture. ... Sessions has weakened voting rights.

As A Congressman, Here Are 5 Questions I’d Ask Senator Jeff Sessions (Huffington Post, 01/11/17)
Rep. Jared Polis: I find Sen. Sessions’s history of dangerous biases against minorities, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations deeply troubling. His biases appear in his attempts to repeal basic, humane immigration programs and aid for low-income families. In addition, he continually attempts to impede on states’ rights, especially with regard to marijuana. These biases arguably cost him a federal judgeship, and if he’s unfit to serve on the federal bench, he’s certainly unfit to serve as Attorney General. The nomination of Sen. Sessions would be a direct threat to American liberties

Jeff Sessions Claims to Be a Champion of Voting Rights, But His Record Suggests Otherwise: He would be one of the most dangerous attorneys general in modern US history. (Nation, 01/11/17)
Ari Berman: Trump’s press conference was exhibit A for why we need a strong and independent attorney general who can stand up to the president. Yet while Trump rambled from the podium, civil-rights activists were testifying about how his attorney-general nominee, Jeff Sessions, would undermine one of the most important rights in a democracy: the right to vote.... It was a remarkable statement by Sessions. Calling the prosecution of civil-rights activists “a voting-rights case,” is like saying that segregation was about “water-fountain integrity.”...  All of this matters because there’s no evidence Sessions has changed since then.

It's impossible to heal the nation with Sessions as AG (The Hill, 01/11/17)
Jose Calderon, Hispanic Federation: Sessions's entire public career — as a U.S. attorney, a state attorney general and most recently as a U.S. senator — has been characterized by an unabashed hostility toward civil rights. What's more, Sessions has a troubling and well-chronicled history of expressing views that reflect racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments.... At nearly every turn in his more than four decades in politics and in the courts, Sessions has failed to demonstrate any interest in protecting the most vulnerable among us.

Booker does right for civil rights by challenging Sessions | Opinion (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/11/17)
Guest Columnist Thomas V. O'Neil: A number of my fellow attorneys and I confronted this situation in 1972 working in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under the Nixon-Mitchell regime. We chose to resign in protest and to try to call as much attention as we could to the perversion of justice in pursuit of political gain.... His own testimony indicated that he inflated both the number of civil rights cases and his role in those cases as the U.S. Attorney for Alabama in the 1980s.... These apparent exaggerations of the record before the committee alone should be disqualifying.... The parallels to the Nixon years are clear. The dangers would be overwhelming with Sessions in charge of law enforcement ... He was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986. He should be rejected once again.

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.

Amy Davidson: Sessions was denied confirmation as a federal judge, in 1986, with, as I’ve written before, good reason.... Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, who repeatedly asked Sessions what he meant when he said “extreme views” might keep people out of America, may have come closest to getting Sessions to acknowledge that, as she put it, “religious views would be a factor,” as cloaked as the discussion was in talk of “extreme vetting” and keeping out people from “dangerous areas.”

Lessons from Cory Booker and John Lewis: They bore witness, in the truest sense, to Jeff Sessions' confirmation. (Esquire, 01/11/17)
CHARLES P. PIERCE: Booker went over and sat in a witness chair and gave, well, witness.... John Lewis, who sat next to Booker and put his considerable history on the line with no other motivation than to testify, in the truest and fullest sense of that church-bound word.... after listening to people try to pose Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, and after hearing Sessions himself argue that when he called the Voting Rights Act "intrusive," he meant it as a compliment, then even a futile truth is preferable to an effective fraud. There's a reason why they call it "bearing" witness. It's a burden you volunteer to carry.

Jeff Sessions Fights for Racist Outcomes. Who Cares What’s in His Heart? (, 01/11/17)
Jamelle Bouie: As the NAACP Legal Defense Fund details in its report on the Alabama lawmaker, “An unrelenting hostility toward civil rights and racial justice has been the defining feature of Jeff Sessions’ professional life.” ... as Pema Levy shows for Mother Jones, Sessions was instrumental in keeping black judges off the federal bench in his state of Alabama. ... This continued under President Obama, with Sessions opposing Obama’s picks for the five vacant district judgeships in Alabama, as well as the open seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Sessions confirmed that he still opposes an effort to make sentencing reform retroactive for drug offenders imprisoned under the now-defunct 100-to-1 crack-cocaine disparity. ... In another exchange, Sessions all but disparaged efforts to investigate police departments with patterns of abuse and discrimination.... If the question is a commitment to civil rights, Jeff Sessions falls far short. If the question is a commitment to civil rights, Jeff Sessions falls far short.

The Senate should “just say no” to Jeff Sessions (Volokh Conspiracy, 01/10/17)
Ilya Somin: the Senate should indeed reject this nomination. It should borrow a slogan from Sessions’ beloved War on Drugs and “just say no.” Liberals are not the only ones with good reason to oppose Sessions. His record should also trouble libertarians, conservatives, and others who care about protecting liberty, constitutional federalism, and property rights.... Sessions is one of the leading advocates of asset forfeiture, the law enforcement practice of seizing the property of suspects who have often not even been charged with any crime .... Sessions’ longtime role as an extreme drug warrior is also troubling. ... In addition to being one of the Senate’s most extreme drug warriors, Sessions is also perhaps its leading supporter of mass deportations and immigration restrictionism, going well beyond many other Republicans. Such measures pose a serious threat to the liberty of native-born Americans as well as immigrants.... also likely to undermine constitutional federalism ... liberals, libertarians, and conservative advocates of property rights and federalism should join together in opposing Sessions.

Susan Collins Just Disgraced Herself at Jeff Sessions’s Confirmation Hearing: The senator proved once and for all that she’s no “moderate.” (Nation, 01/10/17)
John Nichols: Collins re-imagined the fiercely conservative Sessions—whose nomination is opposed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Organization for Women—as an ally of racial reconciliation, inclusiveness and bipartisan compromise. ... Mainers disagree, as well, with the decision of their Senator to step up as a leading proponent of the Sessions selection. ... Collins was anything but conscientious when she chose not merely to support Sessions but to champion his nomination

True Lies: There was one moment in Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing that revealed why so many are so terrified of him (, 01/10/17)
Dahlia Lithwick: Sen. "Whitehouse replied, with a leading, and perhaps slightly conclusory question: “And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?” At which point Sessions responded, “Well, I’m not sure.” For a few seconds the Senate chamber seemed to go completely silent.... It spoke to the levels of obfuscation that are now customary in such confirmation hearings, especially about matters of faith, and the degree to which hearings become theater in which little true about the nominees and their most deeply felt positions are revealed. It also demonstrated that the views that Sessions is hiding are absolutely inimical to the democratic values of many members of the Senate and a large portion of the country."

What we still need to know about Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department (Washington Post, 01/10/17)
Opinion By Paul Waldman: What we saw in the hearing was similar to what we’ve seen in public discussion about Sessions: too much attention to what he’s said and done in the past, and not enough on what he might actually do in the future.... He may say “I’ll enforce the law” on laws he doesn’t like, as every such nominee does, but he’ll have huge latitude to pick which laws get enforced how aggressively and in what ways. Which means that we don’t really know what he has planned.

Joseph Cohen: WV must ensure that Jeff Sessions is right for the job (Gazette) (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 01/10/17)
"As an elected official, first Alabama attorney general and now U.S. senator, Sessions has been an outspoken critic of many legislative attempts to protect minorities’ civil rights. He has consistently challenged the need for governmental intervention under the Voting Rights Act and he has opposed expansion of hate crimes legislation to cover disabilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.... A hardliner on immigration, Senator Sessions has not just targeted undocumented immigrants, he has sought to dramatically reduce legal immigration and end birthright citizenship, as required by the 14th Amendment. Because of the attorney general’s control over numerous law enforcement agencies, it is vital that anyone holding that post view the constitutional limitations on governmental intrusion into our privacy as a sacred, inviolable obligation. Senator Sessions has repeatedly sought to expand the federal surveillance apparatus."

Sessions should not be attorney general: Alabama law prof (USA Today, 01/10/17)
John P. Gross: My decision to publicly oppose his nomination is not based on racially insensitive remarks he may have made 30 years ago, but rather because of the policies he has repeatedly endorsed — policies that won’t promote public safety and won’t protect our civil rights.... Sessions believes in widespread voter fraud despite the lack of evidence that it occurs. He has endorsed strict voter identification laws, which have been shown to keep eligible voters away from the polls. He has called the National Voting Rights Act “intrusive legislation”... He is skeptical of climate change but would oversee the Environment and Natural Resource Division. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act but would oversee the Office of Violence Against Women.

The Case Against Jeff Sessions: Trump's pick for attorney general has a record that should disqualify him from the office. (U.S. News & World Report, 01/10/17)
Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause: Too many senators are demonstrating a willingness, even an eagerness, to overlook the record of stubborn resistance to protecting and advancing the right to vote that Sessions has crafted in four decades as a prosecutor, attorney general of Alabama and, since 1997, a U.S. senator. That record is powerful evidence that as attorney general, Sessions would shirk one of his most important duties. Shunning the example of predecessors who've worked to strengthen voting rights, Sessions could be expected to aid and abet state efforts to rewrite election laws in ways tailored to disenfranchise millions of Americans.

Why You Should Care: Attorney General Nominee (Defenders of Wildlife Blog, 01/10/17)
Hillary Esquina: The Trump Administration’s Attorney General will play a central role in the enforcement of our federal wildlife and environmental laws over the next four years. The policies and decisions of the Attorney General will have a direct impact on the protection of endangered and threatened species, our national forests and wildlife refuges, and efforts to combat climate change.... Senator Sessions’ record on climate change and support of legislation to weaken federal environmental laws including the Endangered Species Act suggests that as Attorney General he will undermine efforts to address climate change and weaken enforcement of federal laws to protect endangered and threatened species.... Senator Session’s record demonstrates a disregard for protecting wildlife and public lands.

Sessions Offers Unclear, Useless Answers on Marijuana During Confirmation Hearing: Says he won’t commit “to never enforcing federal law” but that doesn't tell us much of anything. (, 01/10/17)
Eric Boehm: we got vague and unconvincing answers about how Sessions views the relationship between the states and the federal government.... Sessions would have tremendous power as attorney general to decide exactly what "enforce laws effectively as we are able" means. Without needing approval from Congress, Sessions could send federal agents to arrest growers, shut down dispensaries, and freeze the bank accounts of marijuana businesses.... his decisions on marijuana policy could have huge implications for individuals and businesses in states where forms of marijuana have been legalized .... That's why we need to hear more specifics from Sessions about how he would approach the question of marijuana federalism.

Sessions's AG nomination is misguided and must be stopped (The Hill, 01/10/17)
Opinion BY WADE HENDERSON AND KICA MATOS: he has worked against justice his entire life. He has prosecuted civil rights leaders for trying to register black voters and called the Voting Rights Act "intrusive." ... Sessions's views have not changed — instead, as a U.S. senator, he has continued to advance an agenda that is anti-immigrant, anti-civil rights and antithetical to our democratic values.... As recently as December, Sessions spoke for 30 minutes about why he was in favor of barring people from entering the United States because of their religion, although a bipartisan group of his colleagues have disagreed. And he continues to be opposed to the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship

Questions for Jeff Sessions (Washington Post, 01/10/17)
Opinion by Radley Balko: Federal judge Alex Kozinksi, a Reagan appointee, has called prosecutor misconduct an epidemic. Do you still feel that this is an issue concocted by defense attorneys? ... Can you name three examples in which you think a prosecutor abused his or her authority or engaged in misconduct? ... you have criticized nominees for government positions for, as you put it, “defending terrorists.” Do you believe that everyone facing criminal charges by U.S. prosecutors has the right to a vigorous defense — paid for by the government, if necessary? ... Do you think the libel laws should be changed as they apply to public figures?... Can you reconcile your support for property rights with your support for allowing law enforcement to take property without ever having to prove in court that the owner did anything wrong? ... Speaking of federalism, you also have some strong feelings about marijuana legalization....

Jeff Sessions' Hearing Was an Ahistorical Farce: He tried to lull us all into acceptance. (Esquire, 01/10/17)
CHARLES P. PIERCE: concern-trolling history was only one method by which the nominee made ennui his friend and ally.

Why Lawyers Are Freaking Out About Jeff Sessions as Attorney General: Trump's pick to be America's top lawyer has a nasty civil rights track record (Rolling Stone, 01/10/17)
Bridgette Dunlap: While Sessions' nomination has been met with opposition from a range of voices, there's been particular alarm in the legal community.

Jeff Sessions' support of asset forfeiture should concern you (Conservative Review, 01/10/17)
Commentary By Logan Albright: I’m talking about the issue of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officers to seize property from those suspected of committing a crime .... Sessions has been a vocal defender of this practice .... but a cornerstone of American justice has always been “innocent until proven guilty.” When someone’s property is seized in this way, they usually never get it back, even if they are exonerated or never brought to trial.... Sessions needs to address his past support for civil asset forfeiture and other policies that concern the rights of the very citizens he will protect.

Jeff Sessions Won’t ‘Commit’ to Letting You Smoke Pot — Even Where It’s Legal Under State Law (New York Magazine, 01/10/17)
Ed Kilgore: How will this zealous soldier in the War on Drugs deal with state laws legalizing marijuana? We still don’t really know the answer, because Sessions endorsed two principles that are in conflict. ... I suppose that means Sessions believes he should go right ahead and prosecute people in the “legalized pot” states for violating federal law, but isn’t sure it is worth the trouble. ... Nobody should want their personal freedom to depend on Jeff Sessions’s idea of the best way to allocate prosecutorial resources.

Sessions is unqualified to be nation’s leading victim advocate (The Hill, 01/09/17)
BY LISALYN R. JACOBS AND RUTH GLENN: Sen. Sessions’ troubling record as both a top state and federal prosecutor, and his vote against the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, taken with his recent attempts to duck the question of whether the president-elect’s statements regarding grabbing women in the genitals without their consent constitutes sexual assault leaves us gravely concerned that he would not “vigorously or consistently,” enforce the protections of the Violence Against Women Act, including enforcing Title IX in our public schools and on our college and university campuses.

Why Sen. Collins should be concerned about Jeff Sessions’ hostility to women’s rights (Bangor Daily News [ME], 01/09/17)
Kathleen Turner: Although there’s no end to the list of reasons why Sessions is the wrong choice for U.S. attorney general, as a lifelong women’s rights advocate, I am especially concerned about the harm Sessions could do to women if he were confirmed by the Senate for this position.