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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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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.”

If Jeff Sessions Opposed Lurleen Wallace, Who Did He Support? Republicans have said that Donald Trump’s attorney general nominee began his career fighting against a segregationist in Alabama. The truth is more complicated. (Atlantic, 11/22/16)
Adam Serwer: this telling elides an important fact: Jim D. Martin, the Republican candidate running against Wallace, was also a segregationist. It’s unclear whether Sessions’s staff is claiming Sessions worked on Martin’s behalf or campaigned against Wallace in some other capacity––they have declined repeated requests for clarification or comment.

Trump Picks a Climate Skeptic to Enforce Environmental Laws: Trump Picks a Climate Skeptic to Enforce Environmental Laws (Scientific American, 11/21/16)
Camille von Kaenel, ClimateWire: Sen. Jeff Sessions, whom President-elect Donald Trump put forward Friday as his choice for attorney general, has questioned mainstream science on man-made climate change and attacked U.S. EPA for regulatory outreach.

Jeff Sessions’ long perversion of justice: Trump’s pick for Attorney General has waged a 30-year battle against voting rights: In 1986, Sessions was deemed too racist to serve as a federal judge by a GOP-led senate — what will he do as AG? (, 11/21/16)
Gary Legum: Sessions has championed voter-ID and other laws designed to subvert minority voting rights while continuing to claim that voter fraud is a major problem nationwide, with no evidence to back him up.

Trump's Pick for Attorney General Is a 'Drug War Dinosaur': Jeff Sessions opposes sentencing reform, defends civil forfeiture, and criticizes the Obama administration for letting states legalize marijuana. (, 11/21/16)
senior editor Jacob Sullum: Sessions' retrograde views on marijuana, his opposition to sentencing reform, and his enthusiasm for civil forfeiture do not bode well for drug policy under Trump .... Trump promised that "safety will be restored" the day he takes office, but he was pretty vague about what that means. It is more than a little disconcerting that an unreconstructed drug warrior like Sessions will help him fill in the details.... we see Sessions' insistence that truth be subordinated to the anti-drug cause.... he clearly did not approve of the Obama administration's tolerance for diverse marijuana policies.... even among Republicans, most (70 percent, according to a CBS News poll conducted last April) think the feds should not interfere with state decisions in this area....Sessions was a leading opponent of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, ... Sessions defends civil forfeiture as well as draconian drug sentences.

The Signal Sent By Picking Jeff Sessions for Attorney General: The United States’s top law-enforcement official possesses sweeping discretionary power—and the Alabama senator’s record suggests how he’ll use it. (Atlantic, 11/21/16)
GARRETT EPPS: Jeff Sessions’s chief distinction to date is his rejection by the Senate Judiciary Committee—run at the time by the Republican majority—as a nominee for the federal district bench. ...what no one denied was his use of the power of the U.S. attorney’s office in Alabama to humiliate and intimidate African American voters.... Sessions went on to become attorney general of Alabama and then U.S. senator. And in those roles, he has fought tooth and nail against advances for racial equality, women’s rights, due process for immigrants, or voting rights.

Jeff Sessions’ Other Civil Rights Problem (New York Times, 11/21/16)
Thomas J. Sugrue, Op-Ed: Sessions was elected Alabama’s attorney general. While he held the position for only two years — using it as a steppingstone for his campaign for the Senate — he left an indelible mark. He used the power of his office to fight to preserve Alabama’s long history of separate and unequal education.

Thomasson: Trump making bad choices (Evansville Courier Press [IN] , 11/21/16)
Dan K. Thomasson opinion column: Then there is Sessions, a Republican who once was rejected by a Republican Senate after being nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a federal judgeship.... His nomination to be the nation’s top lawyer, while not all that surprising, might face a confirmation challenge given his hard-nose attitude toward immigration and lingering suspicions of him harboring anti-civil rights inclinations.... The fact is, neither he nor Bannon should be anywhere near the new administration.

Jeff Sessions: Trump's attorney general pick accused of racial slur in 1981: Sessions offered a false explanation when later questioned by Senators about the alleged incident involving Democratic county commissioner Douglas Wicks (Guardian News and Media, 11/21/16)
Jon Swaine: “My point is there was not a black county commissioner at that time,” Sessions said, in response to questions from Joe Biden, then a senator for Delaware. “The black was only elected later.” But this was not true.

Senators must use conscience to reject Sessions as Attorney General (The Hill, 11/20/16)
NAN ARON: Three decades ago, a Republican-led Senate found Senator Jeff Sessions unfit to serve as a federal judge. Today, senators must join in bipartisan conscience again to reject his nomination, this time as the nation’s top lawyer and civil rights enforcer.

Voting Rights in the Age of Trump (New York Times, 11/19/16)
Ari Berman: If Donald J. Trump appoints a justice in the mold of Antonin Scalia to fill the current vacancy, as he has pledged to do, there could be five votes to further gut the Voting Rights Act.... Trump’s Justice Department will also present a severe threat to voting rights. ... As a United States attorney in the 1980s, Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s choice for attorney general, charged black civil rights activists in Alabama with voter fraud. (They were acquitted.) He has called the Voting Rights Act "a piece of intrusive legislation,” and supported the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, saying “if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.”

Jeff Sessions as attorney general: a terrifying prospect for black Americans (Guardian News and Media, 11/19/16)
Bakari T Sellers: An attorney general with a track record of hostility towards women, communities of color and the LGBT community is simply unfit to serve. So to answer President-elect Trump’s question: “What do African-Americans have to lose?” With Sessions’ appointment to serve as the 84th attorney general of the United States, the answer is easy: everything.

Amy Davidson: What might be called the greatest racist hits attributed to Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III have become well known: many such allegations emerged in 1986, when attempts to confirm him as a federal judge failed. ... given the particular responsibilities of the Department of Justice, which range from defending voting rights to oversight of the F.B.I., Sessions’s appointment would be even more upsetting, and frankly dangerous, than those slurs suggest. He has a record of turning what some might be tempted to write off as personal bigotry into political action.

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general pick, would be a massive setback for civil rights (Vox, 11/18/16)
German Lopez: Sessions has been extremely conservative — he has opposed reforms to reduce mass incarceration, proposed stringent crackdowns on immigration, and he even has a history of racist remarks that ended his hopes of a federal judgeship. And that’s not even getting to other issues, from voting rights to discrimination against LGBTQ people, where Sessions has been equally conservative.

Sessions will undo decades of progress (CNN, 11/18/16)
Laura Coates: Surely Jeff Sessions, a man accused of calling prominent Civil Rights groups like the NAACP "un-American," and condemning the Klu Klux Klan for supposed marijuana use (rather than its legacy of hate), will further undermine the African-American community's faith that his department will act in -- let alone prioritize -- the interests of communities of color.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Would Spell Absolute Disaster for Civil Rights in America (, 11/18/16)
Mark Joseph Stern: Sessions is an outwardly racist, xenophobic, homophobic misogynist—and he will now direct the enforcement of federal civil rights law in the United States. His leadership of the Justice Department would reverse decades of gains made by vulnerable populations across the country. If confirmed, Sessions will endanger not only the fundamental rights of minorities and women, but also their lives.

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s Pick for Attorney General, Is a Fierce Opponent of Civil Rights He wrongly prosecuted black activists for voter fraud, was blocked from a judgeship because of racist statements, and opposed the Voting Rights Act. (Nation, 11/18/16)
Ari Berman: A bipartisan coalition of senators sunk Sessions’s nomination, making him the first Reagan judicial nominee rejected by the Senate. Democratic Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama, who’d been elected with large black support, cast the decisive swing vote. “My conscience is not clear,” Heflin said, “and I must vote no.” Now Sessions will be in charge of enforcing the civil-rights laws he once opposed, like the Voting Rights Act. He’s almost certain to further weaken what’s left of the law and to encourage the kind of bogus prosecutions for voter fraud that led him to be rejected for a federal judgeship.

Donald Trump and the Coming Battle Over Legal and Illegal Immigration: The billionaire president-elect may even seek to keep high-skilled foreigners out of the country. (, 11/18/16)
"So long as people are coming here to live peacefully and work peacefully," says Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia, the burden should be on the government "to show to us why they shouldn't be here."... Particularly worrisome is that Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) is Trump's chief adviser on immigration. He's uniquely dangerous, Dalmia says, and has broken with the Republican Party by opposing high-skilled immigration—even floating a proposal to scrap the H1-B visa program.

The nightmare of Jeff Sessions as attorney general (Washington Post, 11/18/16)
Opinion by Steven Hale: alleged racism is not the only worrisome thing on Sessions’s résumé.... Sessions — a man who has, in the past, shown some bitterness over the fact that Abraham Lincoln “killed” one of his ancestors — will follow Eric Holder and Loretta E. Lynch, the first African American and first African American woman, respectively, to lead the Justice Department.

Will Jeff Sessions Roll Back Civil-Rights Protections? Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general has a record of hostility toward the federal government's role in curtailing discrimination on the basis of race, sexuality, and immigration status. (Atlantic, 11/18/16)
Adam Serwer: evidence that Sessions’s views on law and policy have changed is thin. Since becoming a senator, Sessions has denounced federal efforts to protect the rights of marginalized Americans as intrusive, decried the extension of equal rights to gays and lesbians as a threat to Western civilization, and fought to preserve punitive laws in the face of a bipartisan trend toward criminal-justice reform. Sessions’s selection as attorney general augurs an era in which the federal agency charged with protecting the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities, and LGBT Americans will be led by a man who has been openly skeptical of, if not opposed, to its past efforts to do so.

The trouble with Jeff Sessions: As attorney general, he'd pull the country backward on voting rights and criminal-justice reform (New York Daily News, 11/18/16)
Opinion by Michael Waldman: When considered for a judgeship in the age of Reagan, Sessions was deemed too extreme. Will the Senate allow him to glide to confirmation now? Or will it uphold checks and balances and ask the tough questions?

Five Reasons Jeff Sessions Would Be No Friend of Liberty In the Trump Administration (, 11/16/16)
Anthony L. Fisher: 1. He was not only for "the Wall" before Trump thought it was cool, he's against legal immigration, too.... 2. He thinks only bad people do drugs, m'kay.... 4. He's pretty hung up about "the gays."... 5. He has an aversion to civil rights, and has been accused of using racially insensitive language in the workplace.

Jon B. Carroll: Pres. Barack Obama has nominated one of the most highly qualified judges in Alabama’s history to fill a vacancy on the 11th circuit Court of Appeals.... Alabama has five federal judicial vacancies. ... Alabama has five federal judicial vacancies. ... Abdul Kallon is widely thought by committees in the state bar association, and deans of the state’s law schools, to be one of the most highly qualified nominees in recent history.... In my opinion, these two Alabama Senators are doing our state, and country, an injustice by not respecting this and approving Judge Kallon’s nomination.