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Editorial The voters have spoken on marijuana. Trump ought to listen. (Los Angeles Times, 12/28/16)
Times Editorial Board: If that last statement gave a glimmer of hope to advocates of legalization, Trump undermined it with his nominee for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, a hard-line opponent of reforming marijuana laws. During a Senate hearing in April on how the Department of Justice was dealing with states that have legalized cannabis, Sessions declared that “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” And he’s been a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s hands-off approach to states that allow medical and recreational marijuana.... If Sessions does take charge of the Justice Department, he could reverse the DOJ policy and undermine California’s new rules. That would be a step backward. In most of the states that have voted to legalize marijuana, commercialization has ushered in much-needed regulation.... Trump and his attorney general ought to adhere to the will of state voters and demonstrate the kind of pragmatic leadership on marijuana policy that has too often been missing in the federal government.

Here’s How Obama Could Go Nuclear on Trump and the GOP Before Leaving Office (New Yorker, 12/28/16)
Ed Kilgore: Republicans have absolutely no problem breaking any norm in their path to power. ... the year-long blockade of [Supreme Court nominee Merrick] Garland, who has not even received a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, violated a long-standing norm.... That leaves one potentially big stick in Obama’s rapidly shrinking arsenal: recess appointments of judges to fill scores of federal-bench vacancies — up to and including Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court.... once Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2015, they began slow-walking judicial confirmations. At present, there are 103 vacancies in the federal judiciary. When Obama took office there were only 54. He could make the argument that the federal courts have been hamstrung by these vacancies, and use recess appointments to fill some or all of them. If he really chose to make an object lesson of the fruits of GOP obstructionism, Obama could wheel out the Big Bertha: a recess appointment of his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who has been outrageously denied even the courtesy of a confirmation hearing by Senate Republicans ever since his nomination in March.... None of this is likely to happen, in part because Barack Obama isn’t built that way

Inquirer Editorial: Trump's claim of voter fraud was a sham (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 12/28/16)
"His disinformation campaign foreshadows difficult years ahead for voting rights, following an alarming trend among some states to frustrate voter access. Add to that Trump's pick of Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Sessions has called the 1965 Voting Rights Act a "piece of intrusive legislation." If he becomes leader of the Justice Department, can voters trust him to uphold their rights? This confluence of events make it imperative that voting rights groups sharpen their legal skills to protect Americans' right and duty to pick their own leaders because a Trump administration probably won't."

Jeff Sessions to face tough questions over civil asset forfeiture (Maddow Blog {MSNBC], 12/28/16)
Steve Benen: As the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page noted today, the senator’s position on civil asset forfeiture deserves much closer scrutiny.... George Will, the conservative Washington Post columnist, noted over the holiday weekend that when it comes to the civil forfeiture policy, Sessions isn’t just wrong; the senator also seems to have no idea what he’s talking about.... both have concerns about civil forfeiture, as do many progressive Democrats. It’s one of those rare issues that falls at the bipartisan intersection of concerns over civil liberties and “big government.” Sessions, however, has an antiquated, regressive perspective, which he was only too pleased to share publicly as recently as last year.

The Senate should confirm Stephanie Gallagher (Washington Post, 12/27/16)
Carl Tobias: In September 2015, President Obama nominated Stephanie Gallagher, who has been a U.S. magistrate judge in the District of Maryland for more than a half decade, for an opening on that court. Gallagher is an experienced, mainstream nominee whom Maryland Democratic Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin strongly support. In May 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported Gallagher with no dissent. However, she has awaited a final vote ever since, mainly because Republicans would not permit her floor debate and ballot. Gallagher is a talented, consensus nominee and the District of Maryland requires this vacancy filled, so the upper chamber must swiftly grant her confirmation debate and vote.... Democratic members have pursued unanimous consent to vote on Gallagher and 19 other district court nominees who require final ballots, yet Republicans objected. Had the GOP followed regular order, Gallagher would have been approved long ago.

The Nomination Of Senator Sessions And The Threat To Liberty And Justice for All (Seattle Medium [WA] , 12/27/16)
Marc H. Morial: With Trump’s nomination of Republican Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general, the stage appears set to rollback the clock on racial justice, immigration policy, LGBTQ movement advances and gender equality, among other hard fought for gains in the American struggle towards equality for all its citizens.... a man once rejected as too racist to hold a federal judgeship, and has demonstrated a career-long, deep hostility to civil rights, is now being considered to serve as the nation’s chief enforcer of civil rights law. A man who once described the Voting Rights act as “intrusive,” he is now being considered as the nation’s top law enforcer, tasked with enforcing our nation’s voting rights laws.

Donald Trump gets to show his judgment on judges after all (Newsday [NY], 12/27/16)
Dan Janison, columnist: Trump will have more than 100 court slots to fill — in addition to the Supreme Court vacancy caused by Antonin Scalia’s death.... the upcoming judgeship nominations leave a bitter taste for Democrats and a sense of opportunity for Republicans. McConnell (R-Kentucky) can be expected to smooth the way for Trump appointees. Meanwhile Eric Schultz, an Obama spokesman, said GOP delays until now “have been shameful and will forever leave a stain on the United States Senate.”

[Editorial] Questions for Sen. Jeff Sessions, would-be AG (Anniston Star [AL] , 12/27/16)
By the editorial board: Senators must press Sessions on how he will carry out the job of attorney general. What are his views on the Voting Rights Act, a law he voted to renew in 2006? Does he plan to vigorously enforce anti-corruption and ethics laws when they come into conflict with Donald Trump and his business operations? Is he prepared to stand up to the fiction that voter fraud is happening on a widespread basis in the U.S.? Does he see newly enacted requirements for what they are — efforts to keep some eligible voters from the polls? Is he prepared to draw a bright-line distinction between the independence of the Justice Department and Trump, a man who appears hell-bent on settling scores with his political opponents? What are Sessions’ views on the First Amendment and a free press, an institution Trump relentlessly threatens? Likewise, what does he think of Trump’s wish to see libel laws loosened as a way to intimidate the news media? Perhaps most importantly given recent agreement among all U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, will Sessions aggressively pursue the Russians and anyone who aided this interference in our politics?

Will a Trump Administration’s Support for Police Taking Citizens' Property Trigger Needed Reforms? Sen. Sessions' endorsement of civil forfeiture gets public criticism. (Reason.com, 12/27/16)
Scott Shackford: [George] Will targeted Sessions over the senator's open support for asset forfeiture and willingness to magically transform suspicion into guilt in order to keep the revenue rolling into the pockets of law enforcement agencies.... Sessions' contentions that these people affected are all drug dealers and that forfeitures are handled as a "normal civil case" are both wildly off, as Will explains.

Worrisome Actions (My Eastern Shore [MD], 12/27/16)
Harry Lane, Letter to the Editor: If you really want an example of blatant abuse of power, consider the Republican Senate's refusal to consider Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination.

Wednesday letters: Federal judicial vacancies; Fill vacancies (Houston Chronicle, 12/27/16)
Prof. Carl Tobias: Regarding "Fed cases mount in Texas courts" (Page A1, Dec. 21), the story accurately describes Texas, which is ground zero for the judicial vacancy crisis, because the state experiences 13 emergency vacancies. President Donald Trump and the Texas GOP senators must promptly cooperate to nominate and confirm well-qualified, mainstream judges. The most efficient and least wasteful of scarce resources would be starting with the five experienced, moderate nominees who testified in a September hearing but have languished ever since. Indeed, President Barack Obama should renominate all five .... the Senate must quickly confirm them before Inauguration Day, so the judges can deliver justice to people and businesses engaged in Texas federal court litigation.

Trump could quickly appoint more than twice as many federal judges as Obama did in his first term (TheBlaze, 12/26/16)
Jon Street: Republicans on Capitol Hill have, for nearly two years, pulled out every stop to block or delay many of President Barack Obama’s federal judge appointees from receiving senate confirmation. Now, it appears as though that obstruction is paying off for the GOP and President-elect Donald Trump. Upon taking office on January 20, Trump is set to inherit dozens of vacant federal judgeships: 103 of them, to be exact. That’s in addition to the Supreme Court seat left open by the late conservative justice Antonin Scalia, the Washington Post reported. The number is nearly twice the judiciary vacancies Obama inherited from President George W. Bush in 2009. When Obama assumed the role of president, there were just 54 federal judgeships to be filled.

[Editorial] Jeff Sessions and Civil Forfeiture: The AG nominee should be asked about an abusive practice. (Wall Street Journal, 12/26/16)
"Democrats are wrong in most of their criticism of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. But if they or fellow Republicans are looking for a legitimate area to probe, they should explore his views on government’s use of civil forfeiture.... Sessions defended the practice.... The lack of procedural protection coupled with financial incentives has turned policing for profit into a slush fund for governments hungry for cash, and the payouts too often come at the expense of civil liberties. We’d like to hear what Mr. Sessions thinks of the practice today."

Confirm Karen Gren Scholer for the Eastern District of Texas (The Hill, 12/26/16)
Carl Tobias: On March 15, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Karen Gren Scholer, who is a longtime Texas practitioner and has served as a Texas state court judge, for a vacancy on the Eastern District of Texas. Scholer is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. The Senate Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing for Scholer on Sept. 7. Nonetheless, she languished since then, mostly because GOP leaders refused to grant her a panel vote and a final debate and ballot. Because Scholer is an experienced, moderate nominee and the Eastern District of Texas needs all of its vacancies filled, the Senate must swiftly conduct the nominee’s committee vote and her confirmation debate and vote.

Editorial: Team of friendlies (Daily Press [VA] , 12/26/16)
"One of Donald Trump's cabinet picks thought the department he is slated to run ought to be done away with.... The one who would oversee enforcement of civil rights law (among other things) was rejected for a judgeship because of questions about his attitude toward minorities. It's an interesting way to "drain the swamp." ... The president-elect is not exactly filling us with confidence as he names the men and women who will be surrounding him in Washington.... To head the Environmental Protection Agency, President-elect Trump selected Scott Pruitt, another climate change denier who has a long history of filing lawsuits to block environmental regulations. In fact, he is currently part of a group suing the EPA. Thirty years ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Jeff Sessions' nomination for a federal judgeship amid multiple credible allegations of racially charged comments. As Mr. Trump's choice for attorney general, he is now in position to be the head of the Department of Justice."

Rights, wrongs, and a few surprises in '16 (Philadelphia Inquirer [PA], 12/25/16)
Michael Smerconish, Inquirer Columnist: Judge Merrick Garland deserved a hearing and confirmation vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court.

Trump's cabinet is filled with people who oppose LGBTQ equality: Ted Martin (PennLive [PA], 12/24/16)
"Attorney General pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions, voted against allowing LGBT people to serve openly in the military, and opposed expanding the definition of hate crimes to extend to LGBT people."

[Editorial] The Stolen Supreme Court Seat (New York Times, 12/24/16)
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD: The person who gets confirmed will sit in a stolen seat. It was stolen from Barack Obama, a twice-elected president who fulfilled his constitutional duty more than nine months ago by nominating Merrick Garland, a highly qualified and widely respected federal appellate judge. It was stolen by top Senate Republicans, who broke with longstanding tradition and refused to consider any nominee Mr. Obama might send them, because they wanted to preserve the court’s conservative majority. ... The Republican party line — that it was an election year, so the American people should have a “voice” in the selection of the next justice — was a patent lie.... Can anything be done to repair the harm? One step — as obvious as it is unlikely — would be for Mr. Trump to renominate Mr. Garland. ... At the very least, Mr. Trump could follow President Obama’s example and pick a centrist — someone who commands wide respect and operates within the bounds of mainstream legal thought.

Tobias letter: Confirm David Nye (Idaho Statesman, 12/24/16)
Carl Tobias: “While gridlock grinds in Washington, justice suffers in Idaho” (editorial, Dec. 11) astutely describes and decries the Senate’s utter failure to remedy the vacancy crisis that now plagues the District of Idaho and individuals and businesses engaged in federal court litigation. The Senate must confirm David Nye, an experienced Idaho state trial court judge, whom home state senators proposed and support and President Barack Obama nominated many months ago.... The Judiciary Committee ought to promptly reapprove the nominee and the Senate should swiftly confirm him. If those actions are not taken, the Idaho senators must recommend Nye again to President Donald Trump, who must quickly renominate Nye and the Senate needs to rapidly process him.

The very bad reason Jeff Sessions is ‘very unhappy’ (Washington Post, 12/23/16)
George F. Will column: There might somewhere be a second prominent American who endorses today’s civil forfeiture practices, but one such person is “very unhappy” with criticisms of it. At a 2015 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on forfeiture abuses, one senator said “taking and seizing and forfeiting, through a government judicial process, illegal gains from criminal enterprises is not wrong,” and neither is law enforcement enriching itself from this. In the manner of the man for whom he soon will work, this senator asserted an unverifiable number: “95 percent” of forfeitures involve people who have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.” ... this senator missed a few salient points: In civil forfeiture there usually is no proper “judicial process.” There is no way of knowing how many forfeitures involve criminals .... The Senate Judiciary Committee might want to discuss all this when considering the nominee to be the next attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Editorial Who was naughty and who was nice in 2016? (Los Angeles Times, 12/23/16)
"[H]ere’s The Times editorial board’s naughty and nice list for the past year. Naughty ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for refusing even to give a hearing to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Although McConnell’s tactic paid off in the short term, it perpetuated a scorched-earth politicization of court appointments that could come back to haunt a future Republican president."

Monday letters: Judicial vacancies; Federal judges (Houston Chronicle, 12/23/16)
Carl Tobias: Regarding Texas leads nation in federal judicial vacancies'' (HoustonChronicle.com, Dec. 20), the story accurately describes Texas, which is ground zero for the judicial vacancy crisis, because the state has 13 emergency vacancies. After his inauguration, President Donald Trump and the Texas GOP senators must promptly cooperate to nominate and confirm well-qualified, mainstream judges. Most efficient and least wasteful of scarce resources would be starting with the five experienced, moderate nominees who testified in a September hearing but have languished ever since. Indeed, President Barack Obama should renominate all five .... the Senate must quickly confirm them before Inauguration Day, so the judges can deliver justice to people and businesses engaged in Texas federal court litigation.

Editorial: A day to listen to our better angels (Chicago Sun Times, 12/23/16)
"President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to be attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, much prefers punishment to treatment for people who use illegal drugs, including pot. “Good people,” Sessions once said, “don’t smoke marijuana.” He did not say that decades ago. He said it in April.... unlike Sessions, we favor treatment over incarceration for most petty drug abusers. Prisons should be reserved for dangerous and monstrous people, of which there are plenty enough."

Jeff Sessions’ Close Relationship With Media ‘Bright Spot’ Breitbart (Right Wing Watch, 12/22/16)
Miranda Blue: In preparation for hearings on his nomination to be attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions submitted a response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that should have covered all the public events he’s done and public statements he’s made in his career in politics. He left a whole lot out, including a number of items that reinforced his close relationship with Breitbart, the far-right news outlet that provides a well-known platform for hate.

Senate Republicans Changed the Playbook on Judicial Nominees (Huffington Post, 12/22/16)
Paul Gordon: We should never forget why there are so many vacancies, because that affects how the Senate should act with regard to President Trump’s nominees. Unfortunately, over the course of Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans changed the playbook. They refused to consider a Supreme Court nominee, and they extended their partisan fights over nominees to include district court nominees, who had generally not found themselves victims to such partisan mistreatment before.

Editorial: Tech help, not backdoors, better law enforcement tool (Herald [WA] , 12/22/16)
"Despite bipartisan support, legislation is likely to face challenges. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General, has previously supported calls that companies be required to create backdoors for law enforcement. Trump’s own positions on technology are less well known. What’s clear now is that there are enough challenges to protecting our privacy and the digital data that is now part of our lives. There are better ways to assist law enforcement than making that access any easier for crooks and meddlers."

Invasion of the Agency Snatchers (New York Times, 12/22/16)
Opinion by Linda Greenhouse: Let’s not forget Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama good old boy, whose history of insensitive racial comments kept him from a Federal District Court seat in 1986, now picked to be attorney general. He’s Trent Lott without the charm. ... Attorney General-designate Sessions has a protégé on the federal appeals court in Atlanta, William H. Pryor Jr., who succeeded him as Alabama’s attorney general. One of the most conservative of all federal judges, Judge Pryor once declared that “I became a lawyer because I wanted to fight the A.C.L.U.,” initials he proceeded to detail as “the anti-American Civil Liberties Union.” ... If that happens, the Democrats will have to filibuster. Unless the Republicans decide to go nuclear and abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, the Democrats may well succeed. I actually think time is on their side. The executive branch selections are so off the wall — at such variance with the way most Americans see the country — that objections to a high profile, lifetime, far-right appointment to the Supreme Court will tap into public sentiment that is now largely expressed as mere bafflement but soon enough will turn to real unease. And, after all, the vacancy is not legitimately President-elect Trump’s to fill. Senate Republicans snatched it from President Obama when for nine months they didn’t even deign to filibuster his distinguished nominee, Chief Judge Merrick B. Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. That moment has passed, and the Democrats can’t snatch the seat back. But from their position on the high ground, the Democrats may ultimately be able to rally the country behind them to stop what could be the most damaging nomination of all.

Editorial - Donald Trump's curious cabinet picks (Richmond Times-Dispatch [VA], 12/22/16)
"Trump’s picks fall into three categories: the good, the alarming, and the unproven.... The unproven: ... the question for attorney -general designate Jeff Sessions is whether he truly has overcome his once-bigoted views."

Garland deserved consideration (Union Democrat [CA], 12/22/16)
Robert Dorroh, Letter to the Editor: President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court nine months ago (some 270 days and counting) and the Republican-majority Senate has refused to hold a confirmation hearing. Since, 1975, the average time from nomination to confirmation is 67 days. Trump’s election eclipses Merrick’s nomination. Is this fair and just?

Editorial: A threat to voting rights (Albany Times Union [NY], 12/21/16)
"As states take steps to disenfranchise voters, the incoming president offers an attorney general hostile to voting rights.... Now comes Mr. Trump's plan to nominate for attorney general Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III — Jeff Sessions as he's known — who once called civil rights groups "un-American," a white civil rights attorney a "disgrace to his race," and the Voting Rights Act a "piece of intrusive legislation." His response to the Shelby ruling was to declare, incredibly, that Alabama "has never had a history of denying voters." So much for a Justice Department that would aggressively defend voting rights. It's essential that incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer make stopping Mr. Sessions' appointment a priority. The disenfranchisement of minority voters for political gain is a crime — there's no other word for it — that was supposed to be a thing of the past. It won't be, not if Mr. Trump is allowed to put a cop on the beat who seems ready and willing to look the other way."