Jeff Sessions

  • January 9, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Beau Tremitiere, ACS Next Generation Leader and Board Member of the ACS Student Chapter at Northwestern University School of Law

    The nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to serve as U.S. Attorney General is deeply troubling and more than one thousand law students from around the country have signed this letter to President-elect Trump in opposition to his nomination. We join more than 1,100 law professors and dozens of constitutional scholars in expressing concern over the Senator’s fitness to serve as our nation’s top lawyer and law enforcement official. Few of us harbored false hope that President-elect Trump would nominate a candidate who shares all our values and priorities, but we endeavored to believe he would nominate someone who is, at the very least, committed to our nation’s founding principles of equality, justice and shared opportunity. After all, our country faces some of the most daunting legal and social challenges that we have encountered in our history and progress will be impossible without an Attorney General willing and able to defend the Constitution and protect the interests of millions of underrepresented citizens and immigrants.

    The next Attorney General must be both forward-looking and committed to fixing the unsolved problems of our nation’s checkered past. After decades of misguided policy, there is an emerging socio-political consensus that the “War on Drugs” has been harmful and counterproductive, systematically devastating communities of color and further stigmatizing addiction. Likewise, there is growing recognition of the insidious effects of institutionalized racism and implicit bias in law enforcement, the need for greater accountability and the importance of building trust between community leaders and all actors in the criminal justice system. Wildly disproportionate and racially-biased sentencing schemes for minor, non-violent crimes remain on the books, but the dismantling has finally begun. Among other worrisome economic trends, increasing consolidation in key industries has further entrenched powerful interests, harming small businesses, innovation and consumers alike. While marriage equality is finally the law of the land, the breadth and scope of permissible religious accommodations remain largely unsettled. Legal protections for transgender persons are in flux and in the meantime, they see their basic human rights violated each day. Voting rights for millions of Americans have been stripped away since Shelby County v. Holder, as redistricting, poll closures and voter identification laws threaten to erase the Voting Rights Act’s transformative legacy. These are just a few of the many pressing legal issues that will demand the attention of the next Attorney General on their first day in office.

    As an advocate and aggressive enforcer, the Attorney General can stand up for the oppressed, inspire the disillusioned and hold accountable those who believe they are above the law. While the most inspired Attorney General cannot single-handedly cure our nation’s ills, an apathetic Department of Justice, or worse yet, a Department of Justice committed to undermining progress, can set back social, political and legal gains by decades. Nonetheless, Attorneys General from both sides of the aisle—from Tom C. Clark to Robert F. Kennedy to Dick Thornburg to Loretta Lynch—have consistently embraced their sacred duty and served honorably as the nation’s top law enforcement officer and chief lawyer. Based on his three decades in public life, Senator Sessions has proven himself unfit to serve in this most important and revered position.

  • January 6, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

    by Christopher Kang, ACS Board Member and National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

    Senate Republicans claim they are “confident” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) will be confirmed to be attorney general, but their rigging of his confirmation process undermines their false bravado. They must be worried that if Americans get to know Sen. Sessions’s record, they would know he is unfit to be attorney general and demand the Senate reject his nomination, just as it did 30 years ago.

    Here are six ways Republicans are stacking the deck.

    1.     Chairman Grassley’s double-standard rush to judgment. As Judiciary Committee Chair, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has scheduled consideration of two attorney general nominations. He took more than six weeks to schedule the confirmation hearing for Loretta Lynch, who is the first African American woman to serve as attorney general. He took barely six minutes to schedule the confirmation hearing for Sen. Sessions, setting a date even before his records were delivered.

    2.     Sen. Sessions refuses to provide the Senate with his full record—which he has previously argued is a felony and that a judge would consider contempt. In 2010, when Sen. Sessions was Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, he charged that a nomination was “‘in jeopardy’ after extraordinary omission of 117 items from Record,” and that the nominee’s “unwillingness to take seriously his obligation to complete these basic forms is potentially disqualifying.” He asserted, “At best, this nominee’s extraordinary disregard for the Committee’s constitutional role demonstrates incompetence; at worst, it creates the impression that he knowingly attempted to hide his most controversial work from the Committee.”

  • December 29, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Christopher Kang, ACS Board Member and National Director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans

    Supporters of Sen. Jeff Sessions’s nomination to become attorney general defend his civil rights record by pointing to his role in passing the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the disparity between sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses. In the context of Sen. Sessions’s overall civil rights record and his opposition to criminal justice reform, even full-throated leadership on this issue would not be enough to overcome concerns about him becoming our nation’s top law enforcement officer, but given efforts to use this law to deflect from that overall record, a closer look is necessary. I was the lead White House legislative affairs staffer on the Fair Sentencing Act and I can tell you that Sen. Sessions’s efforts were only somewhat helpful—and since then have been a far cry from leadership.

    Background and History

    In 1986, Congress established new sentences for cocaine offenses: possession of five grams of crack cocaine (roughly the weight of two sugar cubes) triggered a mandatory minimum five-year sentence, while trafficking 500 grams (approximately one pound) of powder cocaine triggered the same sentence. This disparity was often referred to as a 100:1 ratio and because more than 80 percent of crack cocaine offenders have been African American, the disparity has had an undeniable racial impact.

    In 2001, Sen. Sessions introduced legislation to reduce this disparity to 20:1. However, his approach was to only slightly increase the amount of crack cocaine necessary to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence—and to couple that with decreasing the amount of powder cocaine necessary to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence.

  • December 22, 2016
    Guest Post

    *Read the open letter to President-elect Trump here.

    Dear President-elect Trump,

    I believe you love this country as much as I do. Only someone with a compelling sense of purpose would endure such a grueling campaign, which will only be dwarfed in difficulty by the demanding, often thankless term of service that follows. To be sure, boldly and cautiously guiding the United States from the helm, while simultaneously serving as leader of the free world, are arduous and exhausting duties in any era. Yet the present moment is characterized by greater complexity, nuance and potential for conflict than perhaps has ever existed in human history. The burden on your shoulders – for maintaining America’s position as a linchpin of the Western-led liberal world order; attending to the needs of Americans at home and abroad; cherishing and working to uphold peace; safeguarding the integrity of American institutions and rule of law so they enable every American to achieve his or her potential; and offering light, hope and help to those suffering outside our borders – is truly immense.

    No matter how heavy these responsibilities become nor how different our politics might be, I promise that I and others, will be always be here to help move our country forward, as well as to labor mightily to prevent backsliding when the need arises. One of the bedrocks of our democracy is truth. So over the next few years, as you feel you could benefit from the knowledge, analytic skill and passion for truth and justice embraced by young lawyers like myself, I hope that you will reach out.

    In the meantime, you may perceive Open Letters such as this as an affront to your leadership. Inasmuch as they may represent acts of resistance, they are born out of our deep love of country, respect for our democratic institutions, and affirmation of the worth, dignity and equality of our fellow citizens. Former President Jimmy Carter recently reiterated the importance of upholding human rights at home and abroad, since another cornerstone of our democracy is equal rights and protection under the law. The potential for unequal treatment and unequal opportunity under an Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a profound concern motivating the writers and signatories of this letter. When it seems that entire communities, vulnerable people or marginalized groups are, or may in short order fall, under attack, acts of defiance may become urgently necessary.

  • December 15, 2016
    Guest Post

    by Kyle Barry, Policy Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

    A memo released yesterday by a number of organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), revealed gaping holes in Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions’s response to his Senate Judiciary Questionnaire (SJQ) that preclude the Judiciary Committee from holding a thorough and complete hearing on his nomination. This finding also revealed that, as a nominee, Sessions apparently takes the SJQ far less seriously than he does as a Senator tasked with assessing nominees and that he is unwilling to hold himself to the same standard to which he holds other nominees who appear before the Committee.

    In 2010, when a judicial nominee failed to submit certain materials required by the SJQ, Sen. Sessions described a sacred role for the questionnaire in the confirmation process. In a letter, Sessions said that the failure to report a full list of speeches, panel discussions and publications showed “extraordinary disregard for the Committee’s constitutional role,” and an “unwillingness to take seriously [the] obligation to complete these basic forms” that “is potentially disqualifying.” Sessions argued that the Committee should postpone the nominee’s hearing to “maintain[] the integrity of the Committee’s constitutional advice and consent responsibilities[.]”

    In Sen. Sessions’s view, the obligation to provide full and accurate SJQ responses should be well-known to nominees appearing before the Committee. “[P]racticing lawyers and judges who are asked to fill out the questionnaire know how important full disclosure is,” he said. “They take an oath to accurately and completely respond to the questionnaire we submit to them.”