Editorials and Opinion
Dusting Off the Constitution's Obscure Clauses (Bloomberg News, 12/21/16)
Noah Feldman: Senate Republicans devised a new interpretation of their right to give advice and consent to the president over Supreme Court nominations by flatly refusing even to consider the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia.
Baker: Sessions a dangerous pick for attorney general (Mason City Globe Gazette [IA], 12/21/16)
Marge Baker, opinion column: Sessions has challenged the 14th Amendment’s unambiguous promise that people born in our country are U.S. citizens. ... In a similar vein, after Trump suggested a blatantly unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States, Sessions defended him, saying it’s “appropriate to begin to discuss this.”
Sessions also has a shameful record on voting rights, one of our most critical constitutional rights as Americans.
As a federal prosecutor, he led a witch hunt against black organizers helping to register African-American seniors, threatening three organizers with 100-year sentences. Later, as a senator, he applauded the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, .... Perhaps most disturbing, Sessions voted against a prohibition on torture
Sessions Unchanged: The same hostility toward civil rights advocacy that cost Jeff Sessions a judgeship in the 1980s has been a central theme of his entire Senate career (Medium, 12/21/16)
Kyle Barry, NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Sessions has often directed vitriol at civil rights lawyers — those who spend their legal careers upholding the rule of law in the face of attacks on core constitutional guarantees like freedom of speech and equal protection of the laws — while dismissing them as “activists” with “agendas” who are disqualified from serving as judges or in any other government role.... His condemnation of these groups has been expressed consistently throughout his tenure as a United States Senator. ... his cynical attempt to distort his record with a misleading public relations campaign is an insult to the civil rights community and the entire American public, and affirms that Jeff Sessions, unchanged, is wholly unfit to serve as the nation’s chief law enforcer.
Supreme Court Nominations Will Never Be the Same (Bloomberg News, 12/20/16)
Noah Feldman: It’s been 311 days since Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, and his seat remains unfilled. ... But what really matters isn’t the length of the vacancy. It’s the election in the middle of it. The Republican Senate changed the rules of confirmation drastically by refusing even to consider Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination. And against the odds, it paid off for them.... Garland was, and remains, archetypally confirmable. A non-ideological moderate, .... this historic shift in the confirmation process will create a new norm. The Senate will confirm Supreme Court appointees only if the president and the Senate majority are of the same party.
Alabama doesn't send her best people to Washington (AL.com [AL], 12/20/16)
Guest Voices by Amy Smith: The bigotry and willful ignorance of Alabama's elected leadership is once again in the national spotlight with president elect Trump's choice for Attorney General of the United States, US Senator from Alabama, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.... Appointing Sessions as US Attorney General has real consequences because it weakens the federal wall of protection that stands between the worst of our elected public officials and the citizens whose civil rights they seek to abridge.
As Attorney General of Alabama, Sessions used the voting rights act of 1965 to prosecute those who registered black voters. He fought to protect the financial segregation of Alabama's public schools. As a U.S. Senator, Sessions voted against extending basic civil rights to LGBT people. He has publicly supported and voted for allowing the torture of people who are held in the custody of the US government. He voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act.
Dozens Of Obama’s Judicial Nominees, Including Historic Picks, Won’t Make It Onto The Bench: Fifty-two of President Obama’s judicial nominees didn’t get a vote in the Senate. They include lawyers and judges who would have added new diversity to the federal bench. (BuzzFeed, 12/20/16)
Zoe Tillman: Qureshi is one of 52 nominees for federal district and appeals courts and the US Supreme Court who won’t make it onto the bench, at least for now. That group includes more than a dozen nominees who, like Qureshi, would have broken racial, gender, and religious barriers.... Other nominees who would have been firsts if confirmed include Rebecca Haywood, a federal prosecutor who would have been the first African American woman to serve on the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; US District Judge Lucy Koh of California, who would have been the first Korean American federal appeals judge; and US District Judge Abdul Kallon of Alabama, who would have been the first African American from the state to serve on the Eleventh Circuit.... The Senate confirmed 20 judges to federal district and appeals courts during Obama’s final two years in office, and left for the holiday recess with 99 court vacancies. More seats are expected to open up by the time Trump takes office in January. Of the vacant seats, 38 are considered “emergencies” by the judiciary because of the caseload. Those numbers don’t include the US Court of International Trade and the US Court of Federal Claims, where there are also open seats.
By comparison, the Senate confirmed 68 federal judges during President George W. Bush’s last two years, according to the judiciary. By the end of December 2008, there were 26 nominees pending and 53 vacancies.... Democrats could hold up nominees through a senatorial courtesy system known as the “blue slip”
Trump, no ordinary president, requires an extraordinary response (Brookings, 12/20/16)
Thomas E. Mann: The investigative and prosecutorial work of the Department of Justice is an essential bulwark against the misuse of public authority by any official, including presidents. Will its independence and integrity be protected by the new Attorney General and White House Counsel? Trump’s choice for Attorney General was rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship because of racist comments and has a history as a prosecutor more interested in prosecuting African Americans for pursuing voting rights than those trying to suppress their votes.... The courts play an equally essential role. The egregious partisan politicization of judicial appointments, which reached a nadir with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented refusal to even consider Merrick Garland’s nomination to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during the last year of President Obama’s tenure, has weakened the capacity of the courts to fulfill its responsibilities in the face of attacks on the fabric of our democracy.... Vigilance against every threat to the fundamental nature of the republic is the order of the day.
Jeff Sessions Is The Final Step In The GOP Plan For Permanent National Political Control (Huffington Post, 12/20/16)
Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Sessions is the final step in the GOP plan for permanent national political control. When he’s had the chance during his tenure as a US Attorney, as state attorney general, and as a US Senator, he has cheer led voter id laws, relentlessly hunted down and prosecuted every real and imagined voter fraud act, railed against the pre-clearance provision of section 5 of the VRA, and though he grudgingly voted for an extension of the VRA in 2006, later expressed buyer’s remorse about it.
[Editorial] Dems should stop griping and get to work (Journal Inquirer [CT], 12/20/16)
"Democrats should do all they can to try to block a new Supreme Court nominee unless the nominee is opposed to the Alito/Thomas/Federalist Society thinking that pervades the Republican segment of the court. The nominee should not be approved unless that person is less reactionary in his or her thinking.
Certain Trump appointees should be opposed by a majority of Democrats and moderate Republicans because of their extreme positions.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, a noted bigot, should be voted down as attorney general by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats — a coalition that passed President Lyndon Johnson’s landmark civil rights bill.
Above all, Democrats should guard against Republicans passing measures that hinder voting rights, such as ID proof, poll closings, and shortened voting hours in minority precincts"
What will government transparency look like under Trump? (Think Progress, 12/19/16)
Aysha Khan: "in the end, like a number of Republicans who had spoken in favor of disclosure, Sessions voted against the Democratic bill that aimed to increase campaign finance disclosure. Sessions has also voted against a federal shield law to protect journalists’ confidential sources. And that FOIA reform bill discussed earlier? Sessions single-handedly put a hold on it twice, apparently as a result of lobbying from the Department of Justice."
Merrick Garland Officially Becomes Victim of Do-Nothing Senate (New York Magazine, 12/19/16)
Ed Kilgore: Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland is returning to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia without his nomination being confirmed, rejected, or withdrawn.... Sometimes there’s just no justice in American politics.
Trump is just the latest obstacle on the zigzagging course of racial progress (Guardian News and Media, 12/19/16)
Opinion by Margaret Burnham: So bloody was the campaign that ultimately returned black people to near-slavery that one writer, Nicholas Lemann, described the redemption period, from 1876 to the mid-1890s, as the last battle of the civil war. I remind you of this because the president-elect’s selection of Jeff Sessions as attorney general suggests, perhaps more than any other appointment, that the redeemers have once again triumphed.... The prospect that the combined voice of a Sessions justice department and an altered supreme court may cut deeply into legal protections upon which minorities have relied since the civil rights movement deserves close analysis. Far more frightening, however, is the real possibility that the current regime will usher in an era of sustained political violence, reminiscent, in purpose if not precisely in kind, of what was experienced in the original redemption.
Why does Sessions think the police should be able to legally rob you? (Examiner, 12/19/16)
Johnny Kampis, contributor: President-elect Trump has selected Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be his attorney general. Sessions defended civil asset forfeiture during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic in 2015....Sessions' attitude worries reform advocates like Robert Everett Johnson, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, which has defended numerous people trying to get their seized property back.... Johnson is hopeful questioners will delve into the topic of civil asset forfeiture during those hearings. It's an important topic, as Sessions' actions as attorney general could dial back many of the positive reforms that have been made to slow down "policing for profit."
"Sessions needs to be asked what he will do as attorney general about civil asset forfeiture," Johnson said. "His answers are important."
Commentary: Senate shoud confirm state’s federal court nominees (Herald [WA] , 12/18/16)
Carl Tobias: On April 14, President Barack Obama nominated Beth Andrus, Michael Diaz and Kathleen O’Sullivan to fill vacancies with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.
Each is a highly qualified, mainstream nominee who has the strong support of the state’s Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Nevertheless, they have languished since April, primarily because GOP leaders did not accord them Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, panel votes or final debates and ballots. Because all three are experienced, consensus nominees and the District needs every vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly grant the nominees hearings and committee votes and confirmation debates and ballots.
The Western District now has three vacancies in seven active judgeships.
[Editorial] Assessing 2016: Steps forward, but not as many as we would like (Yakima Herald-Republic [WA], 12/18/16)
Yakima Herald-Republic Editorial Board: "By and large, congressional leaders pointed partisan fingers at each other as action lagged on a range of matters, including the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Antonin Scalia."
The Proven Perils of Rolling the Dice on Trump (Huffington Post, 12/18/16)
Janai S. Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.: For United States Attorney General, the chief law enforcer in the country, Mr. Trump has promised to nominate Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama and fast-track his appointment. Sessions first rose to national prominence because his nomination to a federal judgeship was withdrawn amid evidence of extreme racial animus and bias. Sessions joined the Senate in 1997, where he continued to build his long record of standing in vehement opposition to civil rights and equality. Just this year, Sessions publicly praised a 1980s Trump ad that called for the execution of the Central Park Five—five African-American young men who were fully exonerated five years ago. These are teens who spent nearly two decades in jail for a crime they did not commit, yet, Sessions still believes in 2016 that calling for their execution in 1989 was praise-worthy. This is on top of his opposition to critical protections for Americans like voting rights, pay equity, and hate crime enhancements.
Jeff Sessions’ nomination is as much a threat to our democracy and dog whistle to political extremists within our borders as the discussion of creating a Muslim registry based on the same legal precedent used during World War II to establish Japanese internment camps. Moreover, misrepresentations and omissions in his response last week to the questionnaire that the Senate requires of all nominees underscore that Mr. Sessions lacks sufficient hands-on legal experience, possesses an abysmal record on civil rights, and is unlikely to exercise and independence from the president-elect who enters the Oval Office mired in legal troubles and conflicts of interest.
Spotlight: Catholics should condemn Trump cabinet picks (Journal Star [Peoria, IL], 12/17/16)
Aaron Schaidle & 22 others: With the election of Donald Trump, many of us fear that some of the rhetoric and proposed policies of his administration will endanger our livelihoods and families. Most concerning are some of the advisers and cabinet members he has selected to guide his actions .... Sen. Sessions, the president's pick for attorney general, has a history of racist remarks that were deemed so severe he was denied an appointment to the federal bench in Alabama under President Reagan.... In the spirit of that moral teaching, as we hunger and thirst for righteousness, we ask our educational and religious leaders to take the following actions: ... Personally contact our U.S. senators to ask that they vehemently oppose the nomination of Sen. Sessions to the Office of Attorney General
Trump’s most dangerous cabinet pick (Eureka Times-Standard [CA], 12/17/16)
Marge Baker, column: Sessions has challenged the 14th Amendment’s unambiguous promise that people born in our country are U.S. citizens. ... In a similar vein, after Trump suggested a blatantly unconstitutional ban on Muslims entering the United States, Sessions defended him, saying it’s “appropriate to begin to discuss this.” Sessions also has a shameful record on voting rights, one of our most critical constitutional rights as Americans. As a federal prosecutor, he led a witch hunt against black organizers helping to register African-American seniors, threatening three organizers with 100-year sentences. Later, as a senator, he applauded the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision gutting the Voting Rights Act, .... Perhaps most disturbing, Sessions voted against a prohibition on torture
Editorial: Don’t tread on weed (Denver Post [CO] , 12/17/16)
THE DENVER POST EDITORIAL BOARD: Colorado’s legal cannabis industry topped $1 billion in sales in the first 10 months of the year.... Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, is anti-cannabis.... Should an Attorney General Sessions decide to flout the rights of states that have undertaken the cannabis experiment, and return the agency to aggressive enforcement of federal marijuana laws, he could easily start arresting growers, retailers and users. ... Sessions hasn’t signaled what he would do regarding pot enforcement as attorney general. Perhaps he already sees the benefit. But conservatives should get it in writing, stand up for states’ rights and allow the success of this new industry to continue.
OUR VIEW: Senate needs to look out for nation's best interests [Editorial] (Bristol Press [CT], 12/17/16)
"Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has suggested that the U.S. Senate may block some of President-elect Donald Trump’s more controversial nominees.... At the top of the list that Blumenthal opposes are attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. for attorney general, because of his prior racist comments,.... we believe that members of the Senate also have a responsibility — to give or withhold their consent based on who will best serve the interests of the American people."
What Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About Black People (New York Times, 12/17/16)
Opinion by Michael Eric Dyson: his pick of Senator Jeff Sessions as his attorney general — a man who according to testimony before Congress once joked that the only problem with the K.K.K. was the group’s drug use, deemed a white lawyer with black clients a race traitor and dismissed civil rights groups as “un-American” — proves Mr. Trump cares little for the interests of the African-American citizens he will serve in the Oval Office.
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.
Confirm Winfield Ong for the Southern District of Indiana (The Hill, 12/16/16)
Carl Tobias: On Jan. 12, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Winfield Ong, who has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Indiana over two decades, for a vacancy on the Southern District. He is a well qualified, mainstream nominee, who enjoys the powerful support of Indiana Sens. Dan Coats (R) and Joe Donnelly (D). The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Ong on June 16 without dissent. However, the nominee languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow his confirmation debate and vote. Because Ong is an experienced, consensus nominee and the Southern District of Indiana needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must promptly conduct his final debate and vote.... Indiana senators requested a prompt floor ballot, yet Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Majority Leader, failed to arrange it. Numerous Democratic senators sought unanimous consent to vote regarding Ong and 19 remaining district nominees who need final votes, but other members objected....senators must immediately approve him.
Jenni Dye: It shouldn’t take Christmas miracle for Ron Johnson to do his job (Cap Times [WI], 12/16/16)
"[W]ill Sen. Ron Johnson and his fellow Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate deliver on a judge to fill the longest-running federal judicial vacancy in the nation — or will they deliver a lump of coal in continued attempts to rig the federal courts?
Johnson signed off last summer on the nomination of Donald Schott to fill a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, which includes Wisconsin, after five years of excuses and delays motivated by partisanship. Schott received bipartisan support when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve his nomination, and he is now one of 25 judicial nominees available to be confirmed immediately by the full Senate.
It shouldn’t take a Christmas miracle for Johnson and his fellow Republicans in the Senate to do their jobs and approve the judicial nominees, like Donald Schott, who they already support."
Our View: Time for a new talk on 'pot' [Editorial] (South Coast Today [MA], 12/16/16)
"Whereas President Obama has instructed his attorneys general to leave enforcement to individual states, President-elect Trump's nominee for the cabinet post has long demonized marijuana, and could, if he wanted, instruct his U.S. attorneys to start shutting down every medical marijuana facility in the country the day he is confirmed. That would be a gigantic waste of time, money and legal resources better spent elsewhere, and would have negative unintended consequences on the opioid epidemic over both the short and long terms. Nevertheless, until Massachusetts has to deal with an Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it has legal recreational marijuana today."
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.
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."