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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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A vote for Jeff Sessions is a vote for Trump’s Muslim ban: Sessions has long advocated for restricting Muslim travel to the U.S. (Think Progress, 01/29/17)
Aaron Rupar: Sessions continued to speak out in favor of a Muslim ban throughout 2016.

Jeff Sessions forgets he once wanted to execute pot dealers: Let’s jog his memory (, 01/29/17)
JOHN DONOHUE AND MAX SCHOENING: When Sen. Patrick Leahy asked him about his past support for imposing mandatory death sentences on people twice convicted of dealing marijuana, Sessions smiled and claimed to have a foggy memory.

Thank you to King for rejecting Pruitt (Kennebec Journal [ME] , 01/27/17)
Terry Dubois, Letter to the Editor: Thanks to Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, for voting against the confirmation of EPA secretary nominee Scott Pruitt because of his “good conscience.” ... But I really wish he would use that good conscience to vote against the confirmation of attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, too.

Senate Democrats have the power to stop Trump. All they have to do is use it. (Washington Post, 01/27/17)
Adam Jentleson: Because every Senate action requires the unanimous consent of members from all parties, everything it does is a leverage point for Democrats. For instance, each of the 1,000-plus nominees requiring Senate confirmation — including President Trump’s Cabinet choices — can be delayed for four days each.

Recuse, me? Two Alabama prosecutors blur the political lines ( [AL], 01/27/17)
Kyle Whitmire column: In written responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions said he was "not aware of any basis" to recuse himself from potential investigations into President Donald Trump and Trump's administration. The "basis" should be clear to Sessions: While the American people are his client, the president is his boss. Recusing himself and handing over those duties to independent special prosecutors is the only way to ensure those interests don't interfere with each other. Sessions isn't the only prosecutor who is suddenly cloudy on prosecutorial independence.

Antonin Scalia, part-time liberal (Washington Post, 01/27/17)
David M. Dorsen, Op-Ed: in a number of important areas, including the rights of criminal defendants and freedom of speech, the justice was actually quite liberal .... odds are that we are going to have a nominee who not only follows Scalia’s conservative opinions, but also rejects his liberal ones. In short, the court without Scalia is likely to be a lot worse than the one with him still serving.

Susan Sanocki, Letter to the Editor: Sen. Jeff Sessions has spent his career fighting voting and civil-rights laws that he would be responsible for enforcing as attorney general.

Why We Can’t Trust Jeff Sessions To Be The “People’s Lawyer” (People For blog, 01/25/17)
Marge Baker: A number of events this week, including actions by President Trump and some highly concerning statements from attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions, make it all the more clear that we can’t trust Sessions to be the “people’s lawyer” tasked with defending and protecting the rights of all Americans

In Sentencing, Tough Is Not Necessarily Smart: Trump should not take his criminal justice cues from his attorney general. (, 01/25/17)
Jacob Sullum: Trump's pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), criticized Obama's commutations in even stronger terms, calling them an "unprecedented" and "reckless" abuse of executive power. Sessions, who is expected to be confirmed soon, said Obama was "playing a dangerous game to advance his political ideology." Like Trump, Sessions conflates drug offenders with violent criminals. As Alabama's attorney general in 1996, he supported a mandatory death penalty for people convicted twice of drug trafficking, which would have been clearly unconstitutional.

Trump’s Final Supreme Court Candidates Are All Arch Conservatives: The president will have to pick a moderate conservative to avoid a Democratic filibuster. The five judges on his shortlist are anything but. (Daily Beast, 01/24/17)
Jay Michaelson: the Senate refused even to consider a nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, whom everyone agreed was supremely qualified, ethically superlative, and, as best as anyone could really tell, politically moderate.... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has won the Hypocrite of the Year award, telling reporters that “American people simply will not tolerate” a delay in confirmation. Such as the delay he engineered for 10 months.

Sessions misrepresents 'equal and impartial justice' (Montgomery Advertiser [AL], 01/24/17)
Elizabeth Wydra: Sessions’ extreme views demonstrate a stubborn resistance to respecting the rights of all people regardless of income, complexion, gender, religion or any other status. Intentionally or not, he has turned a blind eye to the bedrock American credo of “liberty and justice for all” with respect to civil rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, criminal justice, national security, and executive accountability to the rule of law.

[Editorial] President Trump alleges an illegal-voting crime spree of historic proportions; will his Justice Department prosecute? (New York Daily News, 01/24/17)
"President Trump now insists that a massive 3 to 5 million undocumented immigrants cast ballots in the presidential election. (The old number he made up was 2 to 3 million.) This is, it’s important to say, an assertion utterly unsupported by evidence. We old-fashioned types call it a lie.... We point Trump and his soon-to-be-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who himself has a sordid history of prosecuting people for voting, to 18 U.S. Code, Section 611. “It shall be unlawful for any alien to vote" ... Consider your bluff officially called."

[Editorial] Sessions should recuse himself from investigations into the election (Washington Post, 01/24/17)
"When Judiciary Committee Democrats pressed Mr. Sessions on how he would handle election hacking prosecutions or investigations of potential connections between Trump associates and Russian authorities, Mr. Sessions repeatedly responded: “I am not aware of a basis to recuse myself" ... But the basis for recusal is clear. Like Mr. Flynn, Mr. Sessions played a key role in the president’s campaign. At the least, Mr. Sessions would raise the appearance of a conflict if he made law enforcement decisions related to that campaign.... The Senate should insist on such a commitment before it votes."

Justice at Risk: Trump’s nominee to succeed Scalia will restore a right-wing majority. One additional Trump appointee could undo rights established 50 years ago and more. (American Prospect, 01/23/17)
Erwin Chemerinsky: it will be crucial to fight against the worst Trump nominees for the courts, ... We thus must be prepared to mobilize and organize opposition to the right-wing Trump nominees for the cabinet, the Supreme Court, and the lower federal courts, and against undesirable legislative and administrative changes.

Trump’s judicial picks will affect far more than the Supreme Court (McClatchy newspapers, 01/23/17)
Michael Doyle: “Based on . . . Trump’s cabinet nominations, I am very concerned that he will try to advance judicial nominees that are outside the mainstream and that they will not reflect the diversity of the people they serve,” said former White House Deputy Counsel Christopher Kang.... “I think . . . Trump will be surprised to learn how much power home-state senators wield in the judicial nomination process,” Kang said.

Did Jeff Sessions Forget Wanting To Execute Pot Dealers? (Huffington Post, 01/23/17)
John Donohue and Max Schoening: Before the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be attorney general, senators should demand an explanation for the sudden bout of amnesia he had at his nomination hearing earlier this month. When Sen. Patrick Leahy asked him about his past support for imposing mandatory death sentences on people twice convicted of dealing marijuana, Sessions smiled and claimed to have a foggy memory.... In 1996, when serving as Alabama’s attorney general, he promoted H.B. 242, S.B. 291, a state bill to establish mandatory death sentences for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for dealing marijuana.... We teach and study death penalty law, but you didn’t need to be an expert to know that the bill to execute drug dealers would “never pass constitutional muster,” as The Huntsville Times then reported. That’s because by 1987, the Supreme Court had completely banned mandatory death sentences.

Jeff Sessions Won’t Even Say Racism Exists (People For blog, 01/23/17)
Paul Gordon: Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, has submitted responses to written questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and some of his answers are eye-popping.... Sen. Blumenthal returned to the topic in his written questions, asking Sessions if he agreed with a number of inflammatory quotes from far right allies he has worked with and accepted awards from. Some of these should have been incredibly easy to answer, yet Sessions avoided taking a position on any of them.

Editorial: A shady practice needs to end (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 01/22/17)
"The knock against the practice — sometimes called “civil asset forfeiture” — has been clear and simple for many years: Allowing law-enforcement agencies to confiscate people’s personal property without even filing criminal charges, let alone obtaining a conviction, violates the nation’s bedrock principles regarding justice. What’s more, allowing law-enforcement agencies to keep and spend the proceeds of such seizures gives them an overwhelming incentive to further abuse an already abusive system.... Last year Attorney General Eric Holder announced some reforms of asset forfeiture. They might not be long for this world: Donald Trump’s nominee for the post, Jeff Sessions, supports policing for profit."

How President Trump will shape the federal courts (Volokh Conspiracy, 01/20/17)
Jonathan H. Adler: Trump’s influence on the courts could be magnified if Congress decides to expand the size of the federal judiciary. There are some courts with tremendous backlogs that could use more judges, and others (such as the D.C. Circuit) that Republicans would like to “pack” (or, if your prefer, “unpack”) to offset the effects of Obama’s appointments and Sen. Harry Reid’s decision to invoke the nuclear option to facilitate nominations.... I think judicial seats should be added to those courts with a genuine need, but judicial seats should not be created simply for the purpose of altering any given court’s balance. In other words, I see no reason to add seats to the D.C. Circuit. In addition, I would stagger the creation of these seats, spreading them out over several years — e.g. X in year one, Y in year two, etc. — so that such legislation does not create a partisan windfall.)

Merrick Garland Is Not at the Inauguration as a SCOTUS Justice. It Is a Disgrace. (, 01/20/17)
Jeremy Stahl: Garland was nominated 310 days ago by President Barack Obama to be the ninth Supreme Court Justice. In an entirely unprecedented act of gamesmanship and political obstruction, Senate Republicans refused to even offer Garland a hearing.

Democrats Must Do What They Can to Protect the Supreme Court and the Nation (People For blog, 01/19/17)
Paul Gordon: In a sharp departure from the norm, Trump last year essentially delegated authority for selecting potential justices to right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.... Yes, there is a vacancy on the Court, but there shouldn’t be. ... It exists only because Senate Republicans took the unprecedented step of refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee, D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland. ... During Obama’s first term and into his second, the number of judicial vacancies skyrocketed, not because there weren’t nominees, but because Republicans blocked votes indiscriminately. ... Majority Leader McConnell ended the year without allowing the Senate to vote on the 23 circuit and district court nominees who had been languishing on the Senate floor for many months, sometimes for over a year, after having been thoroughly vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Black Celebrities Must "Be Fearless and Relentless in Speaking Up" Against Trump (Guest Column) (Hollywood Reporter, 01/19/17)
"Trump's selection of Jeff Sessions for U.S. Attorney General sends a clear message of where we stand. The guardian of equal justice will be a man who is accused of several acts of racism, including describing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as "un-American.""

OUR VOICE, GUEST EDITORIAL, Moral courage: standing up for what is right (Wilmington Journal [NC], 01/18/17)
By Marian Wright Edelman: Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) joined the list of speakers testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee against the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for Attorney General .... They spoke on behalf of the majority, millions of Americans, who are afraid of a new onslaught of attempts to push the arc of our nation away from justice — and seek leaders vigilant and determined to keep fighting every step of the way to make America a better and fairer nation. As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day we all should find the courage to honor him by standing up for what is right to stop a Senator who has fought against racial justice over a lifetime from becoming the nation’s chief law enforcement voice. That’s like putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

Editorial: Justice Department can't ignore bad policing (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 01/18/17)
"The Justice Department's thorough report detailing the Chicago Police Department's systemic disregard for civil rights is a sickening account of excessive force and abuse. ... Yet President-elect Donald Trump's choice for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, has criticized such federal efforts as overreaching. Whether it's civil rights or voting rights, Washington cannot look the other way when there is nowhere else to turn for help.... A Justice Department led by Sessions may not be so vigilant. During his Senate confirmation hearing last week, he expressed skepticism about the two dozen "pattern-or-practice" investigations the Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights Division opened during the Obama administration. Sessions was much more concerned that those investigations could hurt police morale and suggested the bad behavior could be from just a few rogue cops. That misses the point entirely and glosses over the systemic police misconduct in Chicago. And Baltimore. And Cleveland. And Seattle. And Ferguson.... Sessions is similarly disinterested in aggressively enforcing voting rights for all Americans."

John Leguizamo: Jeff Sessions Should Never Be Attorney General (Guest Column) (Variety, 01/18/17)
"But the Department of Justice, the agency charged with protecting the rights of all American people, should not be led by a person who has failed to do that throughout his career. Sessions has a long record of opposition to the rights of many of the people most at risk in Trump’s America."

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.

Camden's police story goes to Congress | Editorial (South Jersey Times [NJ], 01/17/17)
"Although the Republican House speaker is not member of the incoming Trump administration, it would be welcome if his influence could tamp down the "police-are-being-handcuffed" rhetoric from some Trump appointees. U.S. Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions has made clear that he dislikes federal investigations into local police departments' alleged use of excessive force and civil rights violations, and Justice Department consent orders that so often prompt reforms."

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"