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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Editorials and Opinion


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Sessions Will Follow the Law, But He Won’t Lead on It: Job requires someone who is aware of oppression and discrimination (Roll Call, 01/11/17)
Jonathan Allen: of course, the attorney general should follow the law. But it is deeply unsatisfying and basically meaningless. Every president’s Justice Department exercises discretion in its interpretation and application of laws. In other words, there’s a lot of latitude in exercising the awesome power of the nation’s top law enforcement agency. ... What Sessions did not produce during the first day of his confirmation hearing is evidence that he pursued any campaign to curb discrimination in Alabama, where it surely existed during his tenure in office there. This is why I have always thought he is not fit for the post of attorney general. That job requires someone who is aware of oppression and discrimination and employs the power of the federal government to stop it. This is no matter of the past. With states moving swiftly to pass laws discriminating against LGBT Americans and crushing protections for voting rights, the principle of equal rights is under attack across the country.During his hearing, Sessions indicated that he couldn’t quite understand the difference between complying with the law and seeking to protect, preserve and promote justice.

Editorial: A Slap in the Face for Immigrants: Jeff Sessions again demonstrated the lack of clarity he has regarding the complex issue of immigration (El Diario, 01/11/17)
"Senator Jeff Sessions’ ideas for the Justice Department are a nightmare about to come true for immigrants. ... Sessions expressed that the priority is to deport criminals, while also justifying leaving Dreamers in a situation that would facilitate their deportation.... We worry about Sessions’ concerns about Latinos during the confirmation hearings of Justice Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. There, the senator devoted almost 30 minutes to the famous “wise Latina” comment, considering it biased, and later tried unsuccessfully to demonstrate that it was a problem that there are too many Latino judges compared to the number of lawyers of this ethnicity. Sessions’ background leads us to believe that the Department of Justice will abandon its priority of defending minorities."

Jeff Sessions Claims to Be a Champion of Voting Rights, But His Record Suggests Otherwise: He would be one of the most dangerous attorneys general in modern US history. (Nation, 01/11/17)
Ari Berman: Trump’s press conference was exhibit A for why we need a strong and independent attorney general who can stand up to the president. Yet while Trump rambled from the podium, civil-rights activists were testifying about how his attorney-general nominee, Jeff Sessions, would undermine one of the most important rights in a democracy: the right to vote.... It was a remarkable statement by Sessions. Calling the prosecution of civil-rights activists “a voting-rights case,” is like saying that segregation was about “water-fountain integrity.”...  All of this matters because there’s no evidence Sessions has changed since then.

Amy Davidson: Sessions was denied confirmation as a federal judge, in 1986, with, as I’ve written before, good reason.... Senator Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, who repeatedly asked Sessions what he meant when he said “extreme views” might keep people out of America, may have come closest to getting Sessions to acknowledge that, as she put it, “religious views would be a factor,” as cloaked as the discussion was in talk of “extreme vetting” and keeping out people from “dangerous areas.”

It's impossible to heal the nation with Sessions as AG (The Hill, 01/11/17)
Jose Calderon, Hispanic Federation: Sessions's entire public career — as a U.S. attorney, a state attorney general and most recently as a U.S. senator — has been characterized by an unabashed hostility toward civil rights. What's more, Sessions has a troubling and well-chronicled history of expressing views that reflect racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments.... At nearly every turn in his more than four decades in politics and in the courts, Sessions has failed to demonstrate any interest in protecting the most vulnerable among us.

[Editorial] As Trump Cabinet hearings begin, we need tough questions for Jeff Sessions (Dallas Morning News, 01/10/17)
"The urgent challenge for members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where two days of hearings on the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama began today, is to decide two things: One, whether Session's zeal to enforce the law will extend to laws he passionately opposed as a senator. And, two, whether he'll have the backbone to challenge the new president should Trump cross constitutional or legal boundaries, as many fear he might. a blandishment about enforcing the law will only go so far. The reality is more complicated. All prosecutors, including the attorney general, have wide discretion about where to spend their investigative and prosecutorial resources. When some laws are inevitably enforced with more zeal than others, it matters where the prosecutor's heart lies. ... 1. Given his strong opposition to President Barack Obama's immigration measures, how will he prioritize the enforcement of immigration laws? 2. How will he act as an independent force within the administration should President-elect Donald Trump or members of his inner circle violate the law? 3. Given his opposition to hate-crime protections for gays and lesbians, and to abortion, how zealously will he prosecute hate crimes and defend abortion rights?"

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.

Jeff Sessions' support of asset forfeiture should concern you (Conservative Review, 01/10/17)
Commentary By Logan Albright: I’m talking about the issue of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officers to seize property from those suspected of committing a crime .... Sessions has been a vocal defender of this practice .... but a cornerstone of American justice has always been “innocent until proven guilty.” When someone’s property is seized in this way, they usually never get it back, even if they are exonerated or never brought to trial.... Sessions needs to address his past support for civil asset forfeiture and other policies that concern the rights of the very citizens he will protect.

[Editorial] Jeff Sessions draws a line between himself and Donald Trump (Newsday [NY], 01/10/17)
"Pressing the Alabama Republican on the inherent conflicts of the job is particularly important because he will be serving a president who has not demonstrated any deep understanding of the Consitution or how the nation’s legal system works. The results were disappointing."

Joseph Cohen: WV must ensure that Jeff Sessions is right for the job (Gazette) (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 01/10/17)
"As an elected official, first Alabama attorney general and now U.S. senator, Sessions has been an outspoken critic of many legislative attempts to protect minorities’ civil rights. He has consistently challenged the need for governmental intervention under the Voting Rights Act and he has opposed expansion of hate crimes legislation to cover disabilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.... A hardliner on immigration, Senator Sessions has not just targeted undocumented immigrants, he has sought to dramatically reduce legal immigration and end birthright citizenship, as required by the 14th Amendment. Because of the attorney general’s control over numerous law enforcement agencies, it is vital that anyone holding that post view the constitutional limitations on governmental intrusion into our privacy as a sacred, inviolable obligation. Senator Sessions has repeatedly sought to expand the federal surveillance apparatus."

Jeff Sessions Won’t ‘Commit’ to Letting You Smoke Pot — Even Where It’s Legal Under State Law (New York Magazine, 01/10/17)
Ed Kilgore: How will this zealous soldier in the War on Drugs deal with state laws legalizing marijuana? We still don’t really know the answer, because Sessions endorsed two principles that are in conflict. ... I suppose that means Sessions believes he should go right ahead and prosecute people in the “legalized pot” states for violating federal law, but isn’t sure it is worth the trouble. ... Nobody should want their personal freedom to depend on Jeff Sessions’s idea of the best way to allocate prosecutorial resources.

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."

Susan Collins Just Disgraced Herself at Jeff Sessions’s Confirmation Hearing: The senator proved once and for all that she’s no “moderate.” (Nation, 01/10/17)
John Nichols: Collins re-imagined the fiercely conservative Sessions—whose nomination is opposed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Organization for Women—as an ally of racial reconciliation, inclusiveness and bipartisan compromise. ... Mainers disagree, as well, with the decision of their Senator to step up as a leading proponent of the Sessions selection. ... Collins was anything but conscientious when she chose not merely to support Sessions but to champion his nomination

[Editorial] Senators must press Jeff Sessions for answers during hearings (Anniston Star [AL] , 01/10/17)
"We suggest senators focus on the Trump videotape episode from October, particularly Sessions’ defense of the indefensible.... Trump brings a load of financial entanglements that clash with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against a president receiving compensation from foreign governments. ... Trump has promised retaliation against members of the news media he dislikes, the First Amendment be damned. ... The Putin government’s deep meddling into the 2016 presidential election is a sore subject for Trump ...However, Sessions needs to promise to follow where the facts and the law lead him.... We encourage senators to press Sessions on these and other potential constitutional conflicts brought on by Trump’s behavior. The next attorney general must be prepared to defy these unconstitutional whims. In short, he must act as if the Constitution and U.S. citizens are his boss."

[Editorial] What’s the hurry on Trump’s Cabinet picks? (Fresno Bee [CA] , 01/10/17)
"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."

Bloomberg View Editorial Board: Questions for Jeff Sessions (Bloomberg News, 01/10/17)
"On immigration, illegal and otherwise, Sessions has been a critic. ... How would Sessions recommend that the Trump administration police abuses without shutting off access to talent?... How does he plan to proceed -- and how will he protect the due-process rights of those already in the U.S.?... undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. ... What moral, economic or legal goal is advanced by deporting them?...Does he have a strategy to reverse the Obama administration's policy of ignoring states where marijuana cultivation and use is permitted? If not, how does he intend to prosecute a crime that is endorsed by a growing number of states? Last, and arguably most important, is the issue of voting rights. ... How does Sessions propose to extend that protection? ... before voting they should demand clear answers to these and other questions."

Editorial Trump’s cabinet nominees need extreme vetting from the Senate, not rubber stamps (Los Angeles Times, 01/10/17)
"Democrats in the Senate are understandably furious that the nominees are being rushed through the confirmation process and insist they won’t receive the searching scrutiny they require....Another reason for greater diligence by the Senate is that some Trump nominees seem uncomfortable with, if not hostile to, the core missions of the departments they have been chosen to administer. Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican nominated to be attorney general, for instance, would be responsible for supervising the Civil Rights Division and enforcing what is left of the Voting Rights Act — a law he once suggested was an intrusion on states’ rights (though he voted to extend it in 2006). Civil rights activists are virtually unanimous in fearing that he wouldn’t aggressively vindicate the rights of minorities; the burden is on him to convince the Senate otherwise. He also will, and should, be asked about allegations in 1986 that he had made racially insensitive comments, a factor in the Judiciary Committee’s refusal to recommend him for a federal judgeship."

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 Senate should “just say no” to Jeff Sessions (Volokh Conspiracy, 01/10/17)
Ilya Somin: the Senate should indeed reject this nomination. It should borrow a slogan from Sessions’ beloved War on Drugs and “just say no.” Liberals are not the only ones with good reason to oppose Sessions. His record should also trouble libertarians, conservatives, and others who care about protecting liberty, constitutional federalism, and property rights.... Sessions is one of the leading advocates of asset forfeiture, the law enforcement practice of seizing the property of suspects who have often not even been charged with any crime .... Sessions’ longtime role as an extreme drug warrior is also troubling. ... In addition to being one of the Senate’s most extreme drug warriors, Sessions is also perhaps its leading supporter of mass deportations and immigration restrictionism, going well beyond many other Republicans. Such measures pose a serious threat to the liberty of native-born Americans as well as immigrants.... also likely to undermine constitutional federalism ... liberals, libertarians, and conservative advocates of property rights and federalism should join together in opposing Sessions.

Editorial: Tit-for-tat politics in our statesman-less land (Journal Star [Peoria, IL], 01/10/17)
"Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Asked recently about promised Democratic attempts to block any Supreme Court nominee of President Trump's, McConnell responded without so much as a wink to let us know he was in on his own hypocrisy. "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," he said. "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."... If there's a "new standard" regarding Supreme Court nominees, it's because McConnell himself saw to it with Obama nominee Merrick Garland, whose chances expired last week without the McConnell- and GOP-led Senate holding so much as a single hearing on him. Obviously Americans "tolerated" that. The real question is whether they should continue to "tolerate" McConnell's willful amnesia, as it's not the first time."

Sessions should not be attorney general: Alabama law prof (USA Today, 01/10/17)
John P. Gross: My decision to publicly oppose his nomination is not based on racially insensitive remarks he may have made 30 years ago, but rather because of the policies he has repeatedly endorsed — policies that won’t promote public safety and won’t protect our civil rights.... Sessions believes in widespread voter fraud despite the lack of evidence that it occurs. He has endorsed strict voter identification laws, which have been shown to keep eligible voters away from the polls. He has called the National Voting Rights Act “intrusive legislation”... He is skeptical of climate change but would oversee the Environment and Natural Resource Division. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act but would oversee the Office of Violence Against Women.

Questions for Jeff Sessions (Washington Post, 01/10/17)
Opinion by Radley Balko: Federal judge Alex Kozinksi, a Reagan appointee, has called prosecutor misconduct an epidemic. Do you still feel that this is an issue concocted by defense attorneys? ... Can you name three examples in which you think a prosecutor abused his or her authority or engaged in misconduct? ... you have criticized nominees for government positions for, as you put it, “defending terrorists.” Do you believe that everyone facing criminal charges by U.S. prosecutors has the right to a vigorous defense — paid for by the government, if necessary? ... Do you think the libel laws should be changed as they apply to public figures?... Can you reconcile your support for property rights with your support for allowing law enforcement to take property without ever having to prove in court that the owner did anything wrong? ... Speaking of federalism, you also have some strong feelings about marijuana legalization....

Sessions Offers Unclear, Useless Answers on Marijuana During Confirmation Hearing: Says he won’t commit “to never enforcing federal law” but that doesn't tell us much of anything. (, 01/10/17)
Eric Boehm: we got vague and unconvincing answers about how Sessions views the relationship between the states and the federal government.... Sessions would have tremendous power as attorney general to decide exactly what "enforce laws effectively as we are able" means. Without needing approval from Congress, Sessions could send federal agents to arrest growers, shut down dispensaries, and freeze the bank accounts of marijuana businesses.... his decisions on marijuana policy could have huge implications for individuals and businesses in states where forms of marijuana have been legalized .... That's why we need to hear more specifics from Sessions about how he would approach the question of marijuana federalism.

[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."