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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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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 (, 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 (, 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.