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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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Trump's high-wire act (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review [PA] , 12/17/16)
Joseph Sabino Mistick: His unconventional nominees seem calculated to shock, and a glaring conflict of interest, once a disqualifier, appears to be an asset for most top jobs. One high-risk nominee is U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general. In 1986, Sessions was nominated for a federal judgeship by President Ronald Reagan and rejected by the Republican-controlled Senate after testimony indicated that he was a racist. Since then, Sessions has opposed the safeguards of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and called for a ban on Muslims. His nomination has been enthusiastically embraced by white supremacists.

Donald Trump’s cast of contrarians (San Francisco Chronicle [CA], 12/16/16)
John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor: No president-elect in modern times has assembled a Cabinet of more members whose backgrounds suggest they are openly hostile to the core missions of the federal agencies they are being tapped to lead....Department of Justice Trump’s choice: Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. His history: The Senate rejected his 1986 bid for a federal judgeship over accusations of racism. He has been a harsh critic of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act (“intrusive legislation”) and has resisted attempts to ease draconian drug laws. The attorney general will play a key role in deciding whether to continue the Obama administration’s noninterference with states’ legalization. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” he said last year.

The Senate Judiciary Questionnaire and Confirmation Hearings: Nominee Sessions Differs from Senator Sessions (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/15/16)
Kyle Barry: A memo released yesterday by a number of organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), revealed gaping holes in Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’s response to his Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) that preclude the Judiciary Committee from holding a thorough and complete hearing on his nomination. This finding also revealed that, as a nominee, Sessions apparently takes the SJQ far less seriously than he does as a Senator tasked with assessing nominees and that he is unwilling to hold himself to the same standard to which he holds other nominees who appear before the Committee.... The Senate should not take shortcuts when evaluating the nominee for the top law enforcement position in the country and should instead collect and review all required material before setting a timeline for hearings. In Senator Sessions’s view, “maintaining the integrity of the Committee’s constitutional advise and consent responsibilities more than justifies such a request.”

Will Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice drain Donald Trump’s swamp?: How likely is the incoming attorney general to deal with Trump's conflicts (, 12/15/16)
Arn Pearson, People for the American Way: Trump originally told the public that he would announce his decision about how he will address conflicts of interest involving his business holdings on December 15, but has now postponed that disclosure to January, just before his inauguration (and after the Electoral College convenes). Senators cannot responsibly conduct a confirmation hearing for Sessions to ask questions about how he would handle Trump’s conflicts as AG and evaluate his response until after that disclosure takes place. At the very least, hearings and a vote on Sessions’ nomination should not take place until then.

Why Senators Must Put the Brakes on Sessions’ AG Nomination (Huffington Post, 12/15/16)
Nan Aron: representatives for several civil rights organizations pored over Sessions’ questionnaire and appendices and came up with potentially hundreds of blatant omissions.... for the Judiciary Committee to do anything less than delay the confirmation schedule and get adequate information from the nominee, with ample time for review, would abdicate its responsibility."

Sessions' SJQ "Woefully Inadequate": Groups Call for Delay in Hearing Schedule (People For blog, 12/14/16)
The Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) submitted by Sen. Jeff Sessions as a prerequisite for his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Attorney General lacks hundreds of entries that should have been included and is woefully inadequate in its current form, according to a number of organizations that have examined the publicly available document and its appendices. We agree with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who just yesterday expressed concern about the incompleteness of the SJQ, and are deeply disturbed by Senator Grassley's insistence that the hearings go forward on such a rushed schedule.

Sessions cannot do justice as head of justice dept. (Selma Times-Journal [AL], 12/13/16)
Hank Sanders: When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the city of Baltimore for police brutality. She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Sen. Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights?... Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Sen. Jeff Sessions to allow some black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts. During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American. That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon.

Block Jeff Sessions for Attorney General (American Constitution Society Blog, 12/12/16)
Guest Post by Erwin Chemerinsky: The Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting race discrimination in voting, employment, housing and policing. Nothing in Sessions’ career offers hope that he would be other than a disaster in doing so.... The Justice Department, through its Environment and Natural Resources Division, plays a key role in enforcing federal environmental laws. Here, too, Sessions has a terrible record.

Civil Rights Déjà Vu, Only Worse: Under George W. Bush, Republicans set about undermining the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Expect a more devastating assault on the division under Trump. (American Prospect, 12/12/16)
Samuel R. Bagenstos: Here are the areas in which civil-rights advocates should have the most concern about a Trump/Sessions Justice Department: Personnel and Leadership. ... Voting Rights. ... I expect the efforts to attack voter suppression to end in the Trump administration and the division instead to bring new lawsuits that will themselves be designed to suppress the vote. ...Police Misconduct. ... Fair Housing. ... Hate Crimes. ... Education. ... Rights of Language Minorities. ... LGBT Rights. ... Disability Rights.... All told, we can expect a Trump Civil Rights Division to reverse a vast swath of the gains, both in management and in substance, that the division made under Obama.

The Last Thing We Need Is a Fact-Free Attorney General (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 12/12/16)
Andrew Cohen: In October 2015, for example, he delivered a speech against the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act ... much of the rhetoric Sessions used to justify his opposition to the bill was untethered to objective fact.

Should Democrats become the 'Party of No?': Dick Polman (PennLive [PA], 12/12/16)
"Senate Democrats can set the tone by putting Trump's Cabinet picks through the wringer, because a number of them deserve to be seriously slow-walked ---- most notably, attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions (rejected for a federal judgeship 30 years ago, due to his racist remarks),... Fortunately, Democrats are indeed vowing to combat those nominees."

Trump's hard-right lurch could lead to his demise | Moran (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 12/11/16)
By Tom Moran | Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Scott Pruitt, his pick for the EPA, loves the smell of burning coal and would free power plants to spew all the carbon they want, free of charge. Americans disagree by margin of 2-1....Trump's pick for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is big on mass incarceration as the best way to fight the drug war. Most Americans now regard that as folly as well. Sessions reminds me of the generals in World War I who kept sending soldiers into machine-gun fire, long after the tactic was a proven failure. He has the same kind of fossilized brain, one that is immune to new evidence.

Trump is creating a Bizarro World with Cabinet picks (Chicago Tribune, 12/09/16)
Clarence Page, column: I can't leave out Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and tough critic of the Voting Rights Act tapped by Trump to be attorney general — a move that, aided by a Republican Congress, puts him in an excellent position to launch a Reconstruction-style collapse of civil rights enforcement with the enthusiasm of a fox guarding a henhouse.

Trump nominee will politicize Dept. of Justice (Lebanon Daily News [PA], 12/09/16)
Walter Brasch, Opinion column: With Jeff Sessions as attorney general, there is every probability that there will be an overhaul of career staff who are apolitical, of the prosecution of certain crimes at the expense of other crimes, and the refusal to pursue many civil rights violations.

My Turn: Why Flake Should Withdraw His Support of Sessions: Daniel Ortega: A vote for Jeff Sessions is an endorsement of this country's unraveling civil rights protections. (Arizona Republic, 12/08/16)
By Daniel R. Ortega, Jr.: Sen. Flake should immediately rescind his support for Sessions’ nomination. Anything less amounts to an endorsement of the unravelling of civil rights protections in our country, especially for the most marginalized among us.

How Democrats Must Fight the Confirmation of Jeff Sessions: The Trump administration-in-waiting will try to paint Sessions as a civil rights advocate. Nothing could be further from the truth. (The New Republic, 12/08/16)
SHERRILYN IFILL, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.: Law may be the most important protection against the very real threats to our democracy that could result from the worst excesses of the incoming administration. Indeed our democracy’s greatest strength is the rule of law. And that’s why the attempt to confirm Senator Jeff Sessions as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer on the basis of his alleged “civil rights advocacy” must be resisted. ... The truth is that if Sessions is a civil rights advocate, he has kept it well-hidden from civil rights lawyers and activists.

Justice Demands We Stop Jeff Sessions: Sessions can't be trusted to be America's top law enforcement official. (U.S. News & World Report, 12/07/16)
Bill Piper, Drug Policy Alliance: Sessions' record shows he's likely to escalate the war on drugs by undermining civil rights, stifling state-level marijuana reforms that have drastically reduced arrests in communities of color and rolling back much of the progress in policing and criminal justice reform made by the Obama administration.... When it comes to drug policy reform, Senator Sessions has nearly single-handedly blocked bipartisan sentencing reform and has been unduly critical of the Justice Department's use of consent decrees that force local police departments to address police brutality, racial profiling and other civil rights issues. Moreover, he supports civil asset forfeiture, the process by which police can take people's money and property and keep it for themselves without having to convict anyone of a crime. He opposes granting formerly incarcerated individuals the right to vote. (Felony disenfranchisement laws have deprived millions of the right to vote, including 30 percent of black men in the Deep South.) Sessions recently said that "good people don't smoke marijuana" and has attacked the Obama administration for respecting state marijuana laws.

Maine Voices: Attorney general nominee failed to grasp author’s point on Supreme Court confirmations; Sen. Jefferson Sessions' misinterpretation of the premise in a 2002 speech casts doubt on his ability to serve as attorney general. (Portland Press Herald [ME] , 12/07/16)
Opinion by JOHN MASSARO: Years ago, a colleague alerted me that conservative Republican Sen. Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions of Alabama – the man now nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the next attorney general – had cited me in a May 9, 2002, Senate speech. I soon learned that Sessions had, indeed, referred to my 1990 book, “Supremely Political: The Role of Ideology and Presidential Management in Unsuccessful Supreme Court Nominations.”... I do, however, protest his manipulative use of my book to support his argument. In “Supremely Political,” after examining all Supreme Court nominations made through 1990, I clearly conclude just the opposite of what Sessions has alleged. ... I can only conclude that his palpable and likely self-serving misrepresentation of my work occurred for one of several reasons. He never really read “Supremely Political.” He read it but erred seriously in understanding what I was saying. He read it and understood its conclusions but, nonetheless, decided to cherry-pick a small part that supposedly supported his preconceived position and conveniently misinterpreted or ignored the rest to further his own political agenda. If any one of these is correct, he has disqualified himself as a nominee for attorney general because he cannot effectively read, understand and present the essence of a straightforward political argument.

Democrats Have Questions. Elizabeth Warren Has Answers. (Bloomberg News, 12/05/16)
Francis Wilkinson column: Democrats have two set arenas in which to highlight, and constrain, the GOP agenda. The first is Senate hearings to confirm Trump cabinet appointees, from whom they must secure commitments to democratic norms and the rule of law. Nominees should also be required to state whether the world is round or flat. For example, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions should state, for the record, whether the FBI's statistics or Trump's distortions about the crime rate are accurate. The hearings are an opportunity to bolster facts and undermine propaganda.

Environmental Community Takes A Stand Against Hate (Defenders of Wildlife Blog, 12/05/16)
"Just as Defenders of Wildlife will always ensure wildlife has a voice – so too must we speak up in solidarity for civil rights, social justice and an environment of inclusivity. I am proud to list Defenders of Wildlife as one of 26 organizations that signed this letter to President-Elect Trump on behalf of the environmental community, and all of the people – and wildlife – who are a part of it. Thank you for standing with us. -Jamie Rappaport Clark, President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife [letter concludes "we demand that all his nominees and appointees honor fundamental civil rights and embody civility befitting the offices for which they have been selected. Therefore, we call on the President-elect to rescind the appointment of Steven Bannon as Chief Strategic Advisor and withdraw the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General to signify his move to represent all equally and protect the rights of all people."]

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: How boycotts could help sway Trump; We all have a responsibility to stand up for our values. (Washington Post, 12/01/16)
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Finally, the most toxic and symptomatic advisers, Stephen K. Bannon and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sessions is Trump’s pick for U.S. attorney general, even though his nomination to the federal bench was torpedoed 30 years ago over accusations of racism. He’s also been accused of retaliating against two black officials whom he believed interfered with that nomination. Those two men accused him of referring to one of them as the n-word, while Sessions’s black deputy in the U.S. attorney’s office said Sessions called him “boy,” and warned him to be careful how he spoke to white people. He was also accused during those 1986 Senate hearings of calling the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People “un-American.”

Senate should block Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general: Erwin Chemerinsky (Los Angeles Daily News [CA], 11/30/16)
"It is unconscionable to put Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions in charge of federal civil rights and federal environmental enforcement. Sessions repeatedly has shown that he is at the extreme right in these areas and he should not be the attorney general of the United States. Although it would take political courage to stand up to the newly elected president, pressure should be placed on moderate Republicans to join Democratic senators in denying confirmation to Sessions."

Opinion: Jeff Sessions is a troubling, dangerous pick for attorney general (Fox News Latino, 11/29/16)
Raul A. Reyes: His nomination for a federal judgeship was sunk years ago because of charges of racism. Immigrants and civil rights advocates are rightfully critical of his radical policy positions.

Not on our watch: Democracy is under attack (Missoulian [MT], 11/28/16)
Zack Porter, opinion column: Instead of hanging on every word, let’s review his first decisions as president-elect. Trump nominated a chief strategist who thinks women are less intelligent than men (Bannon), a national security adviser who called Islam a “cancer” (Michael Flynn), and an attorney general who pardoned Trump’s sexual assaults on women and once called a black lawyer “boy” (Jeff Sessions). Shall we “wait and see” some more?

In Sotomayor Hearings, Jeff Sessions Was Fixated on Discrimination Against White People: Sessions' ill-fated 1986 confirmation hearings weren't the only ones centered on questions of race. (Mother Jones, 11/28/16)
Pema Levy: In one notable exchange with a witness, Sessions seemed to question whether Hispanics were overrepresented among judges.

Fact Checker: The facts about the voter fraud case that sank Jeff Sessions’s bid for a judgeship (Washington Post, 11/28/16)
Michelle Ye Hee Lee: In the new round of hearings, Sessions may face some lingering questions: Why did his prosecutors view voter assistance as a form of voter fraud? What would he have done differently had he been more directly involved in the case?

Senators Must Vote ‘No’ To Jeff Sessions As Attorney General: Senators could diligently review the record and vote their conscience. (Huffington Post, 11/22/16)
Christopher Kang: Senate Democrats can not stop this nomination unless Republicans join them, and based on the public statements of support so far, that doesn’t seem likely. Then again, I imagine this was also the analysis in 1986, when a Republican-controlled Senate considered Sessions’ nomination to the district court—before the Senate Judiciary Committee held two sets of hearings. Before Senator Howell Heflin (also of Alabama) withdrew his support, stating “fairness and impartiality go to the very heart of our justice long as I have reasonable doubts, my conscience is not clear, and I must vote no.” Before two Republicans joined every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee in opposing his nomination. Before the Judiciary Committee rejected a lower court nomination for the first time in nearly half a century. What happened in 1986 could happen again today: Senators could diligently review the record and vote their conscience.

Why I told the Senate that Jeff Sessions thought civil rights groups were ‘un-American’ (Washington Post, 11/22/16)
J. Gerald Hebert: I met him while I was handling a major voting rights case in Mobile, and I relayed a rumor I’d heard: A federal judge there had allegedly referred to a civil rights lawyer as “a traitor to his race” for taking on black clients. Sessions responded, “Well, maybe he is.”... he referred to the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American.” As he saw it, by fighting for racial equality, these groups were “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.”