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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Defenders of Wildlife

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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 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.

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."

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.

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.

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

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."

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.

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."

Jeff Sessions Is Just Not in the Same League as Former Attorneys General (Nation, 01/09/17)
Nan Aron: No matter their political party, trailblazers at the Department of Justice helped presidents and the nation take major steps forward in establishing civil-rights law and protections. ... Sessions’s unequivocal record of racial insensitivity and hostility to protecting civil rights, and his extreme-right ideology, suggest he would willfully work to reverse the decades of civil-rights progress

Combating Hate Crimes Must Be Top Priority For Trump And New Attorney General (Huffington Post, 01/09/17)
Sen. Tammy Baldwin: Unfortunately, President-elect Trump’s choice of Senator Sessions, who has opposed the expansion of federal hate crime laws, as his nominee to lead the Justice Department sends a concerning message that combating this crisis is not a priority for the incoming administration.... If Senator Sessions cannot or will not make a full commitment to act on violence borne out of hatred based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other characteristic, then he has no place serving as America’s top law enforcement official.

Jeff Sessions Could Return Criminal Justice to the Jim Crow Era: Sessions’s extreme views on crime and punishment are a throwback to the darkest chapters in American history. (Nation, 01/09/17)
Ari Berman: “When he was attorney general, we had a horrific problem of racial bias in jury selection,” says Bryan Stevenson, the renowned civil-rights lawyer and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. “Before Sessions took office, courts had reversed 23 cases where there had been intentional exclusion of people of color on juries and his office defended most of those cases…. He was defending the prosecutor’s conduct in the McGahee case and saying it was not unconstitutional or illegal or discriminatory despite the fact that all 24 African Americans who qualified for jury service were excluded.” Stevenson argued McGahee’s case on appeal and in 2009 the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit vacated his death sentence, citing “intentional discrimination” by the prosecution and an “astonishing pattern resulting from the total exclusion of African-Americans.” When his sentence was overturned, McGahee had been on death row in Alabama for 23 years....More than any nominee for attorney general in modern American history, Sessions would be an unapologetic defender of the old Confederacy and has refused to criticize policies that stem directly from Jim Crow.

[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."

DOJ Headed by Sessions Threatens to Undo Decades of Civil Rights Progress (Huffington Post, 01/09/17)
Brent A. Wilkes, League of United Latin American Citizens: Sessions’ hostility toward immigration issues, voting rights issues, and civil rights protections could possibly gut many of the critical protections that vulnerable communities depend on to exercise our constitutional rights.... In addition to his xenophobic views, Sessions has also demonstrated that he is no friend to voting rights.

Here are a few questions Sessions needs to answer before being confirmed as attorney general (Sacramento Bee [CA] , 01/09/17)
Opinion by Brian K. Landsberg: I reflect on my experience as an attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice from 1964 to 1986.... The Senate Judiciary Committee should explore with Sessions what policies and priorities he will adopt for the Department’s Civil Rights Division.... The American people have expressed a strong commitment to the cause of racial justice, through a series of civil rights laws. When the Senate exercises its duty to advise and consent, it must assure itself that Sessions will interpret and enforce these laws so as to promote that commitment.

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."

Some questions for Jeff Sessions (Boston Globe, 01/09/17)
Opinion by Donald K. Stern: The attorney general can and should implement the president’s broad priorities (for example, in the areas of immigration or violent crime) but must be careful that these do not dictate particular prosecutions or cases. So here are a few questions and answers I would like to see

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.

8 Reasons The Senate Must Reject Jeff Sessions (Huffington Post, 01/09/17)
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II: Senator Sessions’ record suggests a remarkable consistency in support of policies that contradict and subvert the Reconstruction amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantee citizenship, equal protection under the law, and the ballot to all Americans.

Bad Law: A look at the terrible things Jeff Sessions did as attorney general of Alabama. (Slate Magazine, 01/09/17)
Elizabeth Wydra: outside groups defending Sessions point to his two-year tenure as Alabama attorney general as a reason he should be confirmed. Look at that record closely, though, and you’ll find a legal officer with an atrocious record of holding allies, political and otherwise, accountable to the Constitution, to the law, or to basic ethical standards.... at least twice during his mere two years in office, Sessions produced legally flawed opinions that were favorable to Alabama Gov. Fob James that also, conveniently, aligned with the interests of one of Alabama’s most politically powerful and deep-pocketed organizations. That organization also happened to have spent substantial sums on, and taken credit for, electing James and Sessions to office. Years later, Sessions’ legal reasoning in these opinions was overruled by broad majorities of the Alabama Supreme Court—including in one ruling written by a Republican justice....he also cleared the way for a politically connected insurance company’s planned no-bid coverage of state road work; urged the Alabama Ethics Commission to approve corporate-funded junkets for state employees; fought successfully against seating the first black intermediate appellate court judges in Alabama’s history; and, no joke, provided formal support for a local sheriff’s use of actual chain gangs.

Jeff Sessions Has a History of Blocking Black Judges: "The senator has a problem putting African Americans on the federal bench in Alabama." (Mother Jones, 01/09/17)
Pema Levy: Alabama is nearly 30 percent black, but only three African American judges have ever sat on a federal bench there. Advocates for judicial diversity in the state say that in recent decades, that's thanks largely to Jeff Sessions, the Republican senator from Alabama whom Donald Trump has nominated to be his attorney general. During his 20 years in the Senate, they say, Sessions has used his perch on the judiciary committee to block nearly every black candidate for a judgeship in his state.... The only exception to this pattern was the confirmation of Abdul Kallon, a black lawyer, to a federal district judgeship in 2009. But because Kallon replaced retiring Judge U.W. Clemon, a Jimmy Carter appointee and the first African American federal judge in Alabama, the diversity of the state's bench didn't change. ... Sessions' support of Kallon only went so far. When Obama nominated Kallon to the vacant 11th Circuit seat in February 2016, Sessions opposed his confirmation.

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.

Five Questions for Jeff Sessions (New York Review of Books, 01/08/17)
David Cole: the ACLU ... rarely testifies in confirmation hearings. But we are sufficiently concerned about Sen. Sessions’s record that we have elected to depart from our usual practice and speak out—not to oppose the nomination, but to insist that the many questions about Sessions’s record must be answered before the Senate votes on his nomination. Here are five: 1. Does Sessions believe that all Americans, regardless of race, should have an equal right to vote? ... 2. How does Sessions defend his record on voting rights laws in the twenty years he has been a Senator for Alabama? ... 3. Why has Sessions so often opposed efforts to protect the rights of women and gays and lesbians? ... 4. Is Sessions prepared to treat all religions equally, and to honor the separation of church and state?... 5. Can Senator Sessions be an attorney general for all the people?

Jeff Sessions, an extremist then and now (Boston Globe, 01/08/17)
Sen. Patrick Leahy column: “Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a US attorney, let alone a US federal judge. He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.” (Senator Edward Kennedy, March 13, 1986) After four days of hearings and extensive testimony, Jeff Sessions’ nomination was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. ... also look at what the nominee has said and done since that time. When I pushed in 2009 to advance the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill championed by Kennedy, it was Sessions who sought to derail it. He asserted at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill that he was “not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination.” When I worked across the aisle in 2013 to reauthorize and greatly expand the Violence Against Women Act to protect students, immigrants, LGBT victims, and those on tribal lands from domestic violence and sexual assault, Sessions was one of just a handful of Senate Republicans to oppose it. And in 2015, it was Sessions who led the opposition to a resolution I offered in the Senate Judiciary Committee that simply reiterated the basic principle that “the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.” My amendment was supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the committee, including the Republican chairman. Sessions has repeatedly stood in the way of efforts to promote and protect Americans’ civil rights. He did so even as other members of the Republican Party sought to work across the aisle to advance the cause of living up to our nation’s core values of equality and justice

If Sessions won't defend Muslims, he's wrong AG for religious freedom (The Hill, 01/08/17)
Op-Ed by BY REV JENNIFER BUTLER AND REV JOHN L. MCCULLOUGH: How can Senator Sessions defend the religious freedom of all Americans when he has denigrated one religion in particular? ... Sessions must demonstrate the willingness to respect the dignity and rights of all Americans, and the ability to account for his past statements and behavior.

Jeff Sessions, the Grim Reaper of Alabama (New York Times, 01/08/17)
Op-Ed by John J. Donohue III and Max Schoening: we learn more about Mr. Sessions’ legal mind-set from a look at the 40-plus death sentences he fought to uphold as Alabama’s attorney general from 1995 to 1997. He worked to execute insane, mentally ill and intellectually disabled people, among others, who were convicted in trials riddled with instances of prosecutorial misconduct, racial discrimination and grossly inadequate defense lawyering.

[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."

Lowry: Make Jeff Sessions wait a little bit (Record [NJ] , 01/07/17)
Column by Bruce Lowry, an editorial writer for The Record: the painfully long wait that Bergen County counsel Julien Neals – nominated to the federal bench by President Obama – was forced to endure by the Republican-led U.S. Senate. By last year’s end, Neals, a man Sen. Cory Booker has described as one of the “most impressive people” he has met in professional life, had waited 674 days without being given a vote by the full Senate. Now contrast that, along with the Senate’s refusal last year to hold hearings on Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, against Republicans’ 180-degree turn toward expediency on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be the next U.S. Attorney General.... it should be alarming for anyone who cares about this nation or its laws that he is being fast-tracked, despite deep concerns about his civil rights record, while Neals, an African-American championed not only by Booker but many in the New Jersey legal community, was made to wait … and wait … and wait.... Julien Neals had to wait 674 days for no good reason. There is plenty of reason to make Jeff Sessions wait

[Editorial] Cheers and Jeers ... (Butler Eagle [PA], 01/07/17)
"Jeer: As the U.S. Senate embarks upon a new session, it continues to fail to live up to one of its basic duties: staffing the federal courts that deal with everything from criminal to civil concerns in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s Western District court has struggled since 2013 with vacant judicial posts. There are now four vacancies — the most of any federal district court system in the country. It doesn’t have to be this way. The district has two nominees (Butler County Judge Marilyn Horan and U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Baxter) who have already cleared committee votes in the Senate. Another jurist, Robert Colville, is also ready to step up to the federal bench. But now there are questions as to whether they are too moderate for President-elect Donald Trump, who has promised to appoint right-wing judges to the bench. This is a ridiculous and harmful state-of-affairs, and the Senate should be ashamed of itself. They need to do their jobs and fill these district court vacancies with all possible haste."