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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Letter: Garner should oppose Sessions as AG (Coloradoan, 01/16/17)
Michelle Gilbert: the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has known Sessions for years, strongly opposed his nomination, citing his reportedly longstanding associations with extremist, deeply racist anti-immigrant groups. He also has an abysmal record voting against women’s rights, including voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.

Sessions’ record shows no love for the VRA (Greensboro News & Record [NC], 01/16/17)
Bill Fullington: Claiming Mr. Sessions supports reauthorization could not be further from the truth. A quick Google search of “Jeff Sessions Reauthorize Voting Rights Act” provides facts

Letter: Flake should think twice about Sessions (Arizona Republic, 01/16/17)
James Hodgkins: Jeff Flake, by openly supporting Jeff Sessions for attorney general, is sending a clear message ... He is telling marginalized groups of Americans that they are unwelcome in this country. Senator Flake is openly supporting a man who has attacked the liberties and freedoms of many Americans who are part of marginalized groups.

What MLK might say to Donald Trump (CNN, 01/16/17)
Peniel Joseph column: Trump and his nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions, represent the post-consensus face of American politics on racial justice. By normalizing the demonization of predominantly black neighborhoods across the nation as unworthy of federal protection and resources, Trump signals to both ordinary citizens and political institutions the value that should be placed on the black folk who live there. Sessions, meanwhile, has adopted less combative rhetoric but has called the Voting Rights Act "intrusive," prosecuted civil rights activists for voter fraud and expressed support for voter ID laws.

Letters: Ethics should still matter in government (Advocate [Baton Rouge, LA], 01/15/17)
Marlee Pittman, Scoville Fellow at the Truman Center for National Policy: Just a day before Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’ hearing, the OGE [Office of Government Ethics] discovered he had falsely reported his involvement in the oil and gas industry, a conflict that could prevent him from running parts of the Department of Justice.

Jan. 15 Readers Letters: Pay close attention to Sessions’ positions on visas (San Jose Mercury News [CA], 01/15/17)
Jeff Markham: The dialog between Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and the nominee for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-S.C., should be examined with great scrutiny by the press of Silicon Valley. Like many immigrant communities who have made our valley flourish in both natural and technological endeavors, those who have come to our valley on H1-B visas are as much a part of our vibrancy as the Latino brothers and sisters who construct our houses and thoroughfares. Our challenges with this nominee are in the present. To harass our H1-B visa brothers and sisters affects us is an affront to the spirit of Silicon Valley.

Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can’t Hide Disturbing Record: Sessions’ record speaks louder than his testimony. (Huffington Post, 01/15/17)
Marjorie Cohn: 1,424 law professors from 180 different schools in 49 states (Alaska doesn’t have a law school), including this writer, signed a letter to Senators Charles Grassley and Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating, “Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge.”

[Editorial] Jeff Sessions and Martin Luther King: Our view: Nominee's past raises questions about future attorney general. (USA Today, 01/15/17)
"[T]he future of civil rights in this country will soon rest in the hands of a new president and in large part his attorney general, who must champion the rights of all Americans. President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for that job, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is a troubling one on that score. ... the nominee's encouraging promises cannot erase his often hostile record on civil rights, nor grave concerns about whether he will rise to the toughest challenges of the job.... there is enough in recent history to raise concerns. He would not be our choice for the job."

[Editorial] Sessions says he cares about civil rights. He’ll have to prove it. (Washington Post, 01/15/17)
"There are substantive objections to Mr. Sessions, for years an ideological outlier in the Senate, ascending to the pinnacle of the U.S. justice system. ... he mostly evaded specific questions about discriminatory voter ID laws, which the Justice Department must play a key role in fighting, and he was unenthusiastic about “pattern or practice” investigations against errant local police forces that have resulted in valuable reforms, particularly in the past several years. He pointed out that he voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, but his Democratic interlocutors reminded him that he also opposed fixing a core section after the Supreme Court gutted it. Most concerning was Mr. Sessions’s habit of pleading ignorance to avoid taking clear positions on some pressing issues."

Disqualify Trump's AG pick over voting rights | Opinion (, 01/15/17)
Milton W. Hinton Jr.: I agree with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker: U.S. Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-Ala.), not only should not be confirmed as U.S. attorney general, he should never have been nominated. ... Nothing the senator has said or done since gives any indication he realizes that his past actions unfairly targeted an entire community desiring to exercise its constitutional right to vote. Nor is there any indication he'd end his hostility to voting rights laws, given the power, authority and opportunity.

A Vote For Jeff Sessions Is A Vote Against Freedom And Equality (Huffington Post, 01/14/17)
Rep. Barbara Lee: Senator Sessions hasn’t evolved, or grown past his racist, bigoted ways. He has given no indication that he is not the same man who was unworthy of confirmation in the 1980s. Instead, Senator Sessions has spent his career distributing discrimination equally across the marginalized communities in America.

Editorial: Western issues not addressed by nominees (Longmont Daily Times-Call [CO], 01/14/17)
"Starting with the hearing for attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, the red flags are starting to become evident. In his hearing last week, a very small portion dealt with his philosophy on the law enforcement challenge of legalized marijuana in wester states. His response was to encourage voters to create the change in Congress, rather than trying to exercise their rights expressed in the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights."

Senate should reject Sessions for attorney general post (Albuquerque Journal [NM], 01/14/17)
Amy Goodman / Syndicated Columnist: As U.S. senator, he voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and opposes comprehensive immigration reform, marriage equality and hate-crime protections for LGBTQ victims. He also is a fierce critic of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. ... Sessions has been consistent throughout his career. The Senate Judiciary Committee should be equally consistent and reject Sessions as attorney general, as it rejected him for a judgeship 30 years ago.

Trump, Sessions threaten to betray King's legacy | Payne (Jersey Journal, 01/13/17)
REP. DONALD M. PAYNE JR., Guest column: Senator Cory Booker, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Congressman Cedric Richmond, and civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis made a strong case for why Senator Sessions' record of hostility to civil and equal rights should disqualify him to serve as our nation's chief law enforcement officer. They could not have been more correct.

Heed Coretta Scott King's warning on Sessions (CNN, 01/13/17)
Sherrilyn Ifill: We have now had two full days of hearings on Senator Sessions, and it is still hard to imagine a nominee with a more troubling record on race, gender equality, LGBTQ rights or immigrant protection than Jeff Sessions. In 1986, Coretta Scott King remarked in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that as U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Alabama, Sessions engaged in a "shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters" when he unsuccessfully prosecuted "the Marion three," who were black civil rights activists in rural Alabama. Indeed, over his 40 years in public life, Sessions' record represents an unbroken line of hostility towards civil rights. As a senator, he has denigrated lawyers from civil rights organizations seeking federal judgeships, voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and against the extension of the Hate Crimes Act to cover LGBTQ victims.

Confirm Inga Bernstein for the District of Massachusetts (The Hill, 01/13/17)
Carl Tobias: On July 30, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Inga Bernstein, a longtime private practitioner, for a judicial vacancy on the District of Massachusetts. Bernstein is a well qualified, mainstream nominee who enjoys the powerful support of Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Bernstein on May 19, 2016 without dissent. Nonetheless, she languished on the floor ever since, mainly due to GOP leaders’ refusal to allow her confirmation debate and vote. Because Ms. Bernstein is an experienced, moderate nominee and the District of Massachusetts needs this vacancy filled, the Senate must swiftly hold her final debate and vote.... Warren and other Democratic senators requested unanimous consent to vote on Bernstein and nineteen remaining district nominees who need floor votes, but the GOP objected.

One of the Burdens Jeff Sessions Didn’t Satisfy at this Week’s Confirmation Hearing (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Brianne J. Gorod, Constitutional Accountability Center: At his confirmation hearing this week, the burden was on Jeff Sessions to prove to the Senate and to the American people that, if confirmed, he would have the independence and integrity necessary to serve as the United States Attorney General, even if that meant standing up to the man who put him in office. That is a burden that he utterly failed to meet.

How Barack Obama Transformed The Nation’s Courts: He filled two SCOTUS seats and made the judiciary more diverse than ever. But the GOP stopped him from doing more. (Huffington Post, 01/12/17)
Jennifer Bendery: Obama will leave office with 329 of his judicial nominees confirmed to lifetime posts on federal courts. That includes two U.S. Supreme Court justices and four judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the two most powerful courts in the nation. Because of Obama, Democratic appointees now have a 7-4 advantage on the D.C. panel, and those judges will play a major role in deciding cases during the Trump administration related to environmental regulations, health care, national security, consumer protections and challenges to executive orders. Obama also tilted the partisan makeup of circuit courts. Nine of the country’s 13 appeals courts now have majority Democratic appointees, compared with just one when he took office in 2009. There is a caveat to his judicial success, however: When Republicans regained the Senate majority two years ago, they ground judicial confirmations to a halt. That has left 86 district court vacancies and 17 circuit court vacancies for President-elect Donald Trump to fill. That’s a huge number of court seats to fall victim to partisan politics. For some context: Obama inherited 59 district and circuit court vacancies when he became president. Trump is inheriting 103.

Editorial: Sessions’ right-wing values sure to follow him as AG (Chicago Sun Times, 01/11/17)
"In response to questioning during his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, Sessions .... avoided potential conflicts by soft-pedaled reality. In truth, every attorney sets priorities, informed by his or her own values, because there’s no way around it .... Even a big federal bureaucracy has a limit to its resources. A nominee might say “I’ll enforce the law” — they all do say that — but every attorney general is afforded huge latitude as to which laws to enforce aggressively. ... It matters, then, that Sessions holds unfortunate views on many of the big issues of the day. It matters that he has a retrograde public record on voting rights, climate change, same-sex marriage, the environment, immigration, incarceration, free speech and religious freedom. We are a nation of laws, but men and women enforce those laws. Or they do not."

Jeff Sessions Provides Slippery Answers at Confirmation Hearings, Thanks to Senatorial Decorum (, 01/11/17)
Anthony L. Fisher, Associate Editor, Reason's Eric Boehm noted that Sessions got away with offering only "unclear, useless answers on marijuana" during the first day of hearings,... Ex-Reasoner Radley Balko posted in his Washington Post column a series of excellent questions pertaining to civil liberties and federalism that Sessions should be asked (but likely won't):

EDITORIAL: Sessions shouldn't be confirmed (Auburn Plainsman [AL], 01/11/17)
"We, in view of Sessions’ record as Alabama’s attorney general and his time spent representing Alabama in D.C., do not believe Sessions should be confirmed as the next U.S. attorney general.... Sessions spreads the myth that crime in America has gotten out of control (it’s actually been decreasing for over a decade) and uses this false premise to argue against criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing incarcerations.... A man with such a simplistic and calloused view on drug users cannot be allowed to run our federal penitentiaries, .... One of the most vital pillars of our society could be further eroded under a Sessions Justice Department: voting rights. Despite his claim to support it, Sessions has been highly critical of the Voting Rights Act throughout the past.... Sessions has supported voting restrictions through the use of voter ID laws on the premise that voter fraud is an urgent problem (it’s actually extremely rare), which disproportionately affect minorities and the poor.... We can’t risk giving Sessions such an influential position, lest our country be ripe for regressing to a condition similar to Alabama’s."

Booker does right for civil rights by challenging Sessions | Opinion (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/11/17)
Guest Columnist Thomas V. O'Neil: A number of my fellow attorneys and I confronted this situation in 1972 working in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under the Nixon-Mitchell regime. We chose to resign in protest and to try to call as much attention as we could to the perversion of justice in pursuit of political gain.... His own testimony indicated that he inflated both the number of civil rights cases and his role in those cases as the U.S. Attorney for Alabama in the 1980s.... These apparent exaggerations of the record before the committee alone should be disqualifying.... The parallels to the Nixon years are clear. The dangers would be overwhelming with Sessions in charge of law enforcement ... He was rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986. He should be rejected once again.

[Editorial] Stand firm (Rutland Herald [VT] , 01/11/17)
"Sen. Patrick Leahy is taking a tough view toward the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Hearings are under way before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Leahy is one of several Democrats who have pledged to stand up for the political independence of the Justice Department and for the civil rights of all Americans.... Sessions has opposed measures supported by Leahy that would have protected the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and racial minorities. These included a hate-crimes bill sponsored by Leahy, as well as the Violence Against Women Act and a resolution rejecting the targeting of religions groups for immigration restrictions.... The danger is that Sessions would ransack the Justice Department, sweeping out any career lawyers suspected of objectionable political views.... Leahy, too, should refuse to be sweet-talked or intimidated into voting for an attorney general who means to reverse the gains of hard-won civil rights battles and turn back the clock of history.

Jeff Sessions is wrong for attorney general; he should be rejected  (Dallas Morning News, 01/11/17)
Michael A. Lindenberger, Editorial Writer: The Senate should reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general of the United States. He's manifestly the wrong person to hold that job at this time. ... His views mark him as a man of the past, and this country can't afford to turn back the clock on voting rights, hate crimes, immigration, or criminal justice reform. ... His unqualified support for law enforcement is a problem. ... Sessions supported the use of torture. ... Sessions has weakened voting rights.

Booker's bad manners? Sessions deserves it | Editorial (Star-Ledger Newark [NJ] , 01/11/17)
"Before even hearing what Sen. Cory Booker had to say on Wed., Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), dismissed his testimony about the attorney general nomination of fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions as "a disgraceful breach of custom." ... The idea that this violates some basic protocol, that one of the few black Senators - backed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights icon - should mind his manners is, in a word, obnoxious. Particularly coming from Cotton. Don't forget, he was the one who spearheaded the letter sent by 46 Republican senators to Iran's hardline leaders, to discourage them from signing a nuclear arms control pact with President Obama. That shameful undermining of our international negotiations led to accusations of treason. Now he attacks Booker for violating "custom"? Here in New Jersey, we were cheering him on. Booker had every reason to speak up. Sessions has a terrible resume in Alabama and should not be Attorney General. From gay rights to voting rights to police brutality, his record is one of standing against civil rights at every turn."

Lessons from Cory Booker and John Lewis: They bore witness, in the truest sense, to Jeff Sessions' confirmation. (Esquire, 01/11/17)
CHARLES P. PIERCE: Booker went over and sat in a witness chair and gave, well, witness.... John Lewis, who sat next to Booker and put his considerable history on the line with no other motivation than to testify, in the truest and fullest sense of that church-bound word.... after listening to people try to pose Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, and after hearing Sessions himself argue that when he called the Voting Rights Act "intrusive," he meant it as a compliment, then even a futile truth is preferable to an effective fraud. There's a reason why they call it "bearing" witness. It's a burden you volunteer to carry.

As A Congressman, Here Are 5 Questions I’d Ask Senator Jeff Sessions (Huffington Post, 01/11/17)
Rep. Jared Polis: I find Sen. Sessions’s history of dangerous biases against minorities, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations deeply troubling. His biases appear in his attempts to repeal basic, humane immigration programs and aid for low-income families. In addition, he continually attempts to impede on states’ rights, especially with regard to marijuana. These biases arguably cost him a federal judgeship, and if he’s unfit to serve on the federal bench, he’s certainly unfit to serve as Attorney General. The nomination of Sen. Sessions would be a direct threat to American liberties

Jones: We can't let racism erase the legacy of Barack Obama (Philadelphia Daily News [PA], 01/11/17)
Solomon Jones: the first black president said goodbye to the nation Tuesday night, only hours after an alleged racist reintroduced himself in his bid to become the nation's next attorney general....Obama is a black man who dared to look to the future, and Sessions is a white man who looks to be a relic of the past.... If Sessions can cheer on the bigoted statements of Trump now, Sessions won't mete out colorblind justice later. In the wake of the racial progress that Obama's presidency represented, Sessions represents a return to America's original sin of racism.

Jeff Sessions Fights for Racist Outcomes. Who Cares What’s in His Heart? (, 01/11/17)
Jamelle Bouie: As the NAACP Legal Defense Fund details in its report on the Alabama lawmaker, “An unrelenting hostility toward civil rights and racial justice has been the defining feature of Jeff Sessions’ professional life.” ... as Pema Levy shows for Mother Jones, Sessions was instrumental in keeping black judges off the federal bench in his state of Alabama. ... This continued under President Obama, with Sessions opposing Obama’s picks for the five vacant district judgeships in Alabama, as well as the open seat on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.... Sessions confirmed that he still opposes an effort to make sentencing reform retroactive for drug offenders imprisoned under the now-defunct 100-to-1 crack-cocaine disparity. ... In another exchange, Sessions all but disparaged efforts to investigate police departments with patterns of abuse and discrimination.... If the question is a commitment to civil rights, Jeff Sessions falls far short. If the question is a commitment to civil rights, Jeff Sessions falls far short.

[Editorial] Jeff Sessions Smooth-Talks the Senate (New York Times, 01/11/17)
EDITORIAL BOARD: A large dose of outrage is certainly called for, given the damage four years of a Sessions-led Justice Department would likely inflict on the hard-won yet fragile advances made for civil rights, racial and gender equality and humane justice. The prospect is particularly stark coming after President Obama’s Justice Department, which has aggressively defended and expanded civil rights for people and groups who were previously unprotected. Mr. Sessions did nothing on Tuesday to dispel the understandable fears that he would stall if not reverse much of that progress. His defense against charges of racism that caused the Senate to reject him for a federal judgeship in 1986 was largely to say it hurt his feelings to be called racist, but his two decades in the Senate provide little hope that he has changed.... He showed little interest in standing up for the rights of the most vulnerable Americans: say, poor and minority voters disenfranchised by strict and unnecessary voter-ID laws (he has been a strong proponent of those laws, he said).