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A project tracking federal judicial nominations and courts.

Senator Statements


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Sen. Blumenthal says no free pass for Trump’s picks
(Democrat - Connecticut) 01/09/17
“So we have good rapport, but these issues are about much more than personal relationships,” Blumenthal said. “‘I’m very concerned that Senator Sessions has taken stands on issues that are really antithetical to civil rights, (civil) liberties women’s health care and religious freedoms.” ... Blumenthal said he wants to know whether Sessions will appoint an independent counsel to preside over pending investigations into companies with ties to Trump, including Deutsche Bank, which has $300 million in outstanding loans to the president-elect. “Part of what the attorney general has to do is say ‘no’ to the president,” Trump said. “Stand up to his boss and say, ‘no.’ ”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth stresses value of hearings for presidential nominees
(Democrat - Illinois) 01/09/17
we asked her how she'd treat Cabinet and Supreme Court nominees from Trump. Hearings for all of them are essential she said, decrying the lack of one for President Obama's high court nominee Merrick Garland. "We should be able to see what that person proposes to bring to the table in terms of their experience, their background, but also what their policies are," she told your shorter columnist then. "I'll base my vote on those hearings themselves and meetings and conversations with the person. No matter who is president, their nominee deserves to have a hearing, and that's not what's happening right now." She also said that even with the opposing party controlling the White House and Congress, she'd stand up and insist on hearings and votes to fill lower-level judicial seats - something that has been a persistent problem under the last three presidents because of members of both parties. Republicans have slow-walked district and appellate court nominees for both Obama and Bill Clinton; Democrats did the same under George W. Bush. The hypocrisy is strong in both parties on this topic, which is why it was gratifying to hear this from Duckworth: "We are in a crisis across this country with so many open judicial seats right now," she said in November. "Many of them have been in so-called 'crisis mode' for a decade. ... The American people deserve a functioning government, and we don't have that if the two parties cannot come together and do their jobs."

Sen. Tammy Baldwin: Combating Hate Crimes Must Be Top Priority For Trump And New Attorney General
(Democrat - Wisconsin) 01/09/17
"Unfortunately, President-elect Trump’s choice of Senator Sessions, who has opposed the expansion of federal hate crime laws, as his nominee to lead the Justice Department sends a concerning message that combating this crisis is not a priority for the incoming administration.... If Senator Sessions cannot or will not make a full commitment to act on violence borne out of hatred based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other characteristic, then he has no place serving as America’s top law enforcement official."

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Slams Jeff Sessions’ Disability Rights Record
(Democrat - Illinois) 01/09/17
Duckworth, a veteran who lost her legs in the Iraq War, questioned Trump’s selection of Sessions, when the Americans With Disabilities Act already appears to be under attack. “I personally am deeply concerned that at a time when the ADA protections seem to be eroding that we’re nominating someone who has less than a stellar record when it comes to comments made in support of disability rights,” she told The Huffington Post.... “The ADA provides the basic protections that allow me to do this job. I mean if it weren’t for the ADA I probably be stuck at home and unable to work,” Duckworth said. “But because the ADA exists, I’m able to have a productive life and be a tax paying citizen.” Everyone, she said, was one bad car crash away from being in need of the ADA. Duckworth said her concern about Sessions’ nomination stemmed from his 2012 stance against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Sen. Leahy Op-Ed: Jeff Sessions, an extremist then and now
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/08/17
Sen. Patrick Leahy column: “Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past. It is inconceivable to me that a person of this attitude is qualified to be a US attorney, let alone a US federal judge. He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.” (Senator Edward Kennedy, March 13, 1986) After four days of hearings and extensive testimony, Jeff Sessions’ nomination was rejected by a Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. ... also look at what the nominee has said and done since that time. When I pushed in 2009 to advance the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill championed by Kennedy, it was Sessions who sought to derail it. He asserted at a Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill that he was “not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination.” When I worked across the aisle in 2013 to reauthorize and greatly expand the Violence Against Women Act to protect students, immigrants, LGBT victims, and those on tribal lands from domestic violence and sexual assault, Sessions was one of just a handful of Senate Republicans to oppose it. And in 2015, it was Sessions who led the opposition to a resolution I offered in the Senate Judiciary Committee that simply reiterated the basic principle that “the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion.” My amendment was supported by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the committee, including the Republican chairman. Sessions has repeatedly stood in the way of efforts to promote and protect Americans’ civil rights. He did so even as other members of the Republican Party sought to work across the aisle to advance the cause of living up to our nation’s core values of equality and justice

Sen. Brown: I Cannot Support Sessions' Nomination; Senator Brown Announces He Will Oppose Senator Sessions’ Nomination for U.S. Attorney General, Cites Voting Rights as Major Concern
(Democrat - Ohio) 01/06/17
Following his Wednesday meeting with U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced he will oppose the Senator’s nomination for U.S. Attorney General. Brown met with Sessions to discuss his record on civil rights and plans for the U.S. Department of Justice. He pressed Sessions on the need to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and how he would address the urgent need to improve police-community relations. “The U.S. Attorney General’s job is to enforce laws that protect the rights of every American,” Brown said. “I have serious concerns that Senator Sessions’ record on civil rights is at direct odds with the task of promoting justice and equality for all, and I cannot support his nomination. “Now, more than ever, we need leaders who can bring Americans together to improve police-community relations, ensure that all Americans have access to the ballot, and reform our criminal justice system.” In addition, Brown pressed Sessions on the Justice Department’s role in supporting the City of Cleveland’s progress in improving police-community relations. The city is currently working with the Justice Department through a consent decree. Sessions has a history of opposing consent decrees. “As Cleveland’s community members and law enforcement work together to improve relations, it’s important that our city has the full support of the Department of Justice in those efforts,” Brown said.

Tester Meets with Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions: Senator Grills Sessions on Government Surveillance, Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors, and Public Safety
(Democrat - Montana) 01/05/17
Tester asked Sessions about his longstanding history of opposing important civil liberties—including his vocal support for the Patriot Act and other government surveillance programs that infringe on Montanans’ right to privacy. Tester also pushed Sessions to explain his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark legislation that has empowered survivors of domestic and sexual violence and held offenders more accountable for their criminal actions, and he urged him to support the Community Orientated Policing Services (COPS) Grant Initiative that provides local law enforcement departments with critical resources to hire, train, and equip police officers. “As our nation’s top law enforcement officer, it is the Attorney General’s responsibility to uphold the Constitution and defend all of our civil liberties,” Tester said after the meeting. “It is troubling to me that Senator Sessions didn’t answer many of those important questions. After this meeting, I am concerned that he will expand the government’s ability to spy on its citizens, refuse to be a voice for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and will not advocate for important grants, like COPS Grants that help our local police department do the job they are hired to do.” Tester encouraged Sessions during their meeting to direct federal law enforcement officials to work closer with Montana’s Native American Tribes to close the jurisdictional gaps in order to improve justice in Indian Country.

Further Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On Senator Jeff Sessions’ Nomination To Be The Attorney General Of The United States
(Democrat - Vermont) 01/04/17
"The American people deserve to learn about Senator Sessions’ record at the public Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Therefore it is especially and increasingly troubling that less than one week before hearings are set to begin, Senator Sessions still has not been fully responsive to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding his nomination. As a former ranking member of this Committee, Senator Sessions is well aware of the seriousness with which this Committee takes the confirmation process. This includes nominees providing senators with all the materials necessary to fairly evaluate a nominee’s record, including responsive materials required by the Committee questionnaire. However, my staff continues to find missing materials in public searches. For example, it appears that Senator Sessions has not produced any interviews during his time as Alabama Attorney General or as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Production of these materials is anything but a new requirement; it is a crucial and longstanding practice of the Judiciary Committee. I hope we can expect that before our hearing begins next Tuesday, every effort will be taken to ensure that we have all that we need to move forward in considering Senator Sessions’ nomination.”

Sen. Durbin wary of Sessions' history on race
(Democrat - Illinois) 01/04/17
“I would say there certainly are elements in his background that raise questions,” Durbin told reporters Wednesday when asked whether it was a legitimate criticism that Sessions is racially insensitive. “He said several times, point blank, that this was not an issue as far as he was concerned. He believed that everybody deserved fair treatment."... Durbin signaled that his concerns extend beyond Sessions’ decades-old remarks to the conservative Alabama senator’s views on voter identification laws and the 2013 Supreme Court decision that invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Durbin even said he gave Sessions a book: “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson, which chronicles the issue of race in America since the Civil War. “The Voting Rights Act is a major part” of the book, Durbin said. “I’m hoping he’ll take a look at it.”... He noted to Sessions that the Justice Department Civil Rights Division will soon release a report on the use-of-force practices of the Chicago Police Department, and said Sessions told him he was “not prepared to commit” to following through on DOJ’s yet-to-be-issued recommendations. The senator said he also pressed Sessions on boosting key Justice Department grants that would aid cities such as Chicago. Sessions “was not prepared to make that commitment,” Durbin said. “I know nominees are cautious in these meetings and they should be and I guess I understand that,” Durbin said. But “this seems to me a very easy question to answer.” Durbin also outlined his well-known differences between himself and Sessions on the issue of immigration and criminal justice reform.

Sen. Democratic Leader Schumer on expiration of Merrick Garland nomination
(Democrat - New York) 01/03/17
“What Senate Republicans did to Judge Garland, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution was appalling. Judge Garland is respected on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Schumer said through a spokesman. “That he did not even get so much as a hearing will be a stain on the legacy of the Republican Senate.”

Sen. Crapo joins Senate Judiciary Committee, hopes to push David Nye renomination and third Idaho federal judgeship
(Republican - Idaho) 01/03/17
He and fellow GOP Sen. Jim Risch persuaded the Judiciary Committee to unanimously approve the nomination of Idaho Judge David Nye for the state’s vacant federal judgeship in the fall, but the nomination never came up for a vote in the full Senate. That leaves Idaho still down to just one active federal district judge, Judge B. Lynn Winmill, since longtime Judge Edward Lodge took senior status in July of 2015. Lindsay Nothern, Crapo’s spokesman, said, “We’re really going to work hard on Nye and work hard on the judges thing. That was a part of the move to the Judiciary Committee.” Nothern said Crapo is hoping to move Nye’s nomination through “sooner rather than later,” and said he’ll “absolutely” be in a better position to advocate for Idaho to get a third judgeship. “He might be writing the legislation to do it,” Nothern said.

Sen. Cotton Meets with Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions
(Republican - Arkansas) 01/03/17
Senator Tom Cotton (R- Arkansas) today released the following statement after meeting with Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions: "Jeff Sessions is one of the most qualified nominees for Attorney General in history and will be an exemplary leader at the Justice Department. I have come to know Jeff well in our time in the Senate, and I have seen his integrity up close. He will be a steadfast defender of the Constitution and the rule of law. And he is committed to securing our borders and fixing our broken immigration system. I look forward to supporting his nomination."

Sen. Crapo to Join Judiciary Committee in 115th Congress
(Republican - Idaho) 01/03/17
Crapo will work with the President-elect to nominate and confirm Idaho’s next U.S. District Judge.... “When the committee convenes, it will hold hearings and act to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. That nominee must follow in the model of Justice Scalia, looking first and foremost to the Constitution for guidance. I will also work with other panel members to advance to the full Senate a nominee to be Idaho’s next U.S. District judge."

Sen. Sasse moves to Judiciary Committee
(Republican - Nebraska) 01/03/17
"Nebraskans know that defending our Constitution means fighting for Supreme Court justices who reject 'pen and phone' theories of executive unilateralism -- that's exactly what I'll be working on in the Judiciary Committee," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on expiration of Merrick Garland nomination
(Republican - Kentucky) 01/03/17
“I’ve been clear throughout that the next president would name the next Supreme Court justice,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said through a spokesman. “Now, the president who won the election will make the nomination, and the Senate the American people just re-elected will consider that nomination.”

Sen. Cornyn Floor Statement: Working Together [Sessions nomination]
(Republican - Texas) 01/03/17
"I have already spoken about one of our colleagues, Senator Sessions, the President-elect's nominee to be the chief law enforcement officer for the country. I think Senator Sessions is an excellent choice. Our colleagues will have a chance to ask all the questions they want, but there is one thing I can be sure of with Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, and that is that he will remove the political orientation of the Department of Justice and make sure that it is not just another political branch of the White House. I look forward to confirming him as Attorney General, and I am confident that he will be prepared to answer the questions from our colleagues."

Senate Minority Leader Schumer Floor Speech
(Democrat - New York) 01/03/17
"We will hold the President-elect accountable if he doesn’t nominate a mainstream Supreme Court Justice. President Obama nominated a mainstream candidate in Merrick Garland. President-elect Trump should do the same."

Sen. Dan Sullivan wants to split Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to improve outcomes for Alaska cases on resource development issues
(Republican - Alaska) 01/02/17
Sullivan said he would like to see the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — which is based in San Francisco and hears federal cases pertaining to Alaska — split. That’s because the 9th Circuit is simply too big, he contends. The court with 29 judgeships hears federal appeals from 15 District Courts in nine Western states and that unavoidably leads to an unbearable workload for the judges and in-turn the slowest appeals court in country, said Sullivan, who also worked as a law clerk on the 9th Circuit. “A lot of the opinions are written by the 23-year-old law clerk who just got out of law school, which is a travesty,” he said. Splitting the 9th Circuit would speed rulings and could, in his opinion, improve outcomes for Alaska cases pertaining to resource development issues if they were no longer heard by often-liberal judges from California. A cohort of Arizona Republicans called for the state to be pulled from the 9th Circuit earlier this year for largely the same reasons.

Sens. Feinstein and Harris on need for two home-state Senator blue slips for circuit and district court nominees
(Democrat - California) 12/30/16
The blue slip is “an important historical tool that prevents the president from forcing a federal judge, U.S. attorney or U.S. marshal through the Senate,” and is “designed to ensure nominees are qualified and well-suited to serve their states,” Feinstein said in a statement Friday. Michael Troncoso, co-director of Harris’ Senate transition team, said, “If nominees for judge or U.S. attorney lack appropriate experience or have extreme views, that’s the reason you have a blue slip.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in ‘Judicial Emergency’
(Democrat - California) 12/29/16
Sen. Barbara Boxer said the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is facing a “judicial emergency” as she called for a Senate vote Tuesday on San Jose-based U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh’s nomination to the appellate court. As the new year rears its head, the 9th Circuit is facing a four-seat vacancy: Two are currently empty and two will become vacant when other judges assume senior status at the end of 2016.

Sen. Donnelly on Winfield Ong, Myra Selby, and Merrick Garland judicial nominations
(Democrat - Indiana) 12/28/16
“I am disappointed that the Senate does not plan to hold any more votes this year,” Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly said. “I strongly supported both Winfield Ong and Myra Selby and pushed the Senate majority to allow them to receive fair and timely consideration. Part of our job as senators is to consider judicial nominations, but ultimately the Republican leadership chose not to hold hearings and votes on many nominees for the lower courts in addition to refusing to consider the nomination of Judge Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.”

Sen. Klobuchar on candidates for two MN federal judgeships
(Democrat - Minnesota) 12/27/16
In a phone interview Tuesday, Klobuchar said she and Franken agreed to forward names reviewed by their committee to Paulsen and U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., after the Nov. 21 deadline for applications passed. Klobuchar said candidates included judges appointed by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "I think the real interest here is to get these vacancies filled by qualified people," Klobuchar said. "Our interest in Minnesota for both Republicans and Democrats should be getting the best people we can get on the bench. … Somehow I'm hopeful this will work. [Emmer and Paulsen are] going to be called on by the administration to give their recommendations. I think it is helpful to get as many names and input as possible."

SEN. WHITEHOUSE DISCUSSES TRUMP NOMINEE FOR U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Rhode Islanders raise questions about Senator Sessions’ record on civil rights, immigration
(Democrat - Rhode Island) 12/20/16
“The United States Attorney General is entrusted with protecting the civil liberties of every single American, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. The Attorney General must set aside personal beliefs to enforce the nation’s laws, upholding all of the values enshrined in our Constitution that for centuries have made our country the beacon of the free world,” said Whitehouse. “Having heard concerns about the President-elect’s nominee for Attorney General from constituents of many backgrounds, I’ll be looking to Senator Sessions to provide evidence he will protect the fundamental rights of all Rhode Islanders.”

Sen. Hirono to serve on Judiciary Committee, continue fighting for Hawaii priorities in United States Senate
(Democrat - Hawaii) 12/19/16
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Hirono will defend voting and civil rights, vet the President-elect’s pick for the Supreme Court, and protect immigrant communities and DREAMers.

Sen. Gillibrand has concerns about Sen. Sessions
(Democrat - New York) 12/19/16
Gillibrand said she also has concerns about the record of Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions also is on the Armed Services Committee and Gillibrand says she has concerns about some of his statements on sexual assault in the military.

Sen. Tim Scott, AG nominee Jeff Sessions meet in Charleston
(Republican - South Carolina) 12/15/16
Sen. Scott said he invited Sessions down to show him how the Charleston area has deftly dealt with crime and tragedy over the past two years — and how it handles diversity. "Before I vote for him to be our attorney general, I want to know what's in his heart," Scott says, "not what he allegedly said back in 1986."... But Scott said he was not auditioning Sessions, he was just doing his homework.... Scott says this is one of the most important votes he will take, and he won't take it lightly. And he still has not decided whether to support Sessions for attorney general. "I have to feel confident the attorney general is going to do the right thing in all cases," Scott says. "This has more impact on our state, the rule of law and disenfranchised communities than any other Cabinet-level position. I just want to be open-minded and do my homework." ... Scott said Thursday evening that Sessions "did a good job today."

Sen. Grassley: Sessions Hearing on Track
(Republican - Iowa) 12/14/16
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today said that the hearing for Attorney General nominee Senator Jeff Sessions is on track after returning the committee questionnaire last week. Grassley noted that Attorney General Eric Holder supplemented his questionnaire with hundreds of additional items in 2008, 2009 and even in 2010, and his hearing remained on schedule on the timeline the committee will follow for Sessions. Grassley added that Sessions’ more than 20 years in public service, along with the fact that members of the committee have worked next to him on issues such as sentencing reform, civil rights, and victims of crime make the committee more than equipped to hold the hearing consistent with the timeline set for Attorney General Holder. Here [LINK] is Grassley’s letter to Feinstein.

Sen. Feinstein: More Time Needed to Review Sessions Nomination Documents
(Democrat - California) 12/13/16
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today renewed her call on Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to allow enough time for committee staff to review the more than 150,000 pages of records relevant to the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as attorney general. Feinstein also called on Grassley to join her in calling on Sessions to provide the committee with information and documents missing from the questionnaire he submitted Friday evening. “First, Senator Sessions’ production is, as I understand it, in excess of 150,000 pages of material. This is more than 100 times what Attorney General Lynch produced (1500 pages) and more than 29 times what Attorney General Holder produced (5100 pages). I am sure you would agree that staff must have sufficient time to do the due diligence on any nominee for this vital position—and this due diligence will likely take longer than the review for recent, prior nominees who had less materials to analyze,” Feinstein wrote. The letter continued: “Second, despite being voluminous, Senator Sessions’ production appears to have been put together in haste and is, on its face, incomplete.” Full text of the letter follows: ...

Sen. Booker declares ‘outrage’ at Trump’s AG pick
(Democrat - New Jersey) 12/13/16
Booker said that, “with a stroke of a pen,” Sessions could undo the accomplishments of President Barack Obama’s two attorneys general, Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch, that have helped lower mandatory minimum sentences and aided people in immigration detention centers. “We had two very good attorneys general in a row. They really were partners in criminal justice reform,” said Booker. “That is not Jeff Sessions’s belief. It is one of the reasons I am so outraged by the pick. He is against the bipartisan efforts for criminal justice reform which are going on in the Senate, and he will have a very powerful position from which to fight us. So now I’m very worried about what he may choose to do, and it is one of the reasons I am gearing up for a confirmation fight in the months to come.”