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.”