As we promised last week, today begins the first in our series of actions items to address certain of President Elect Donald Trump’s nominations. Today’s topic is the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States.
What you should know about the nominee: We oppose Senator Sessions’ nomination because the positions he has taken throughout his career are contrary to the Attorney General’s critical role of enforcing the laws of the United States to protect the civil rights of all citizens. Some examples:
Voting Rights: Senator Sessions supports photo identification voting laws. We were on the trial team that successfully defeated such a law in Pennsylvania. These laws have the purpose and effect of suppressing low income and minority voters; and the problem they claim to address—in person voter fraud—is non-existent. Senator Sessions also applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted the provision of the Voting Rights Act requiring states with a history of discrimination to obtain approval before changing their voting laws.
People with Disabilities: Senator Sessions has called the requirement that children with disabilities be included in classrooms with their non-disabled peers as “the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today” and “a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America.” As our many years of experience in representing children with disabilities show, these statements reflect a bias and stereotypes about children with disabilities and are contrary to data. As attorney general in Alabama Senator Sessions opposed efforts to implement the state’s legal obligation to provide community services to people with disabilities who were needlessly institutionalized. Having helped many people with disabilities obtain services and move out of institutions, we know that those services help people thrive and cost taxpayers less!
Public Education: As Attorney General of Alabama, Senator Sessions sought to vacate a court order holding that the public education funding system in that state violated the state constitution because it resulted in great inequalities between the facilities and services available to students in wealthy and poor districts. We see these same gross disparities in Pennsylvania and are asking our courts to step in.
Race Relations: Senator Sessions’ prior comments on race—and the fact that these prevented his nomination as a federal judge—have been widely reported. More recently, lawyers who worked with him have disputed statements he made in his nomination questionnaire about his civil rights record. Senator Sessions has received awards from organizations that were designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Timing: The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled hearings for January 10 and 11. Details about the hearings are here. The nominations will not officially be made until the President is inaugurated, so the vote by the full Senate will not occur until after January 20.
What you should do: Call your U.S. Senators’ offices and ask for the person responsible for nominations. Ask your Senator for a commitment to a) vote against the nominee and b) issue a statement explaining that position. Publish on social media the response (or lack of response) you are given. If your Senator is on the Judiciary Committee, (the list is here) ask your Senator to vote for an unfavorable recommendation from the committee to the full Senate.
Pennsylvania’s Senators: (not members of the Judiciary Committee)
Bob Casey Jr.
Senator Casey has issued statements regarding some of the nominations, but has not yet spoken out about Senator Sessions. https://www.casey.senate.gov/issues/cabinet-nominations
Washington, D.C. (202) 224-6324
Philadelphia, PA (215) 405-9660
Phone numbers for other offices: https://www.casey.senate.gov/contact
Senator Toomey has issued a statement saying that Senator Sessions will make a “great attorney general.” http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=news&id=1847
Washington, D.C. (202) 224-4254
Philadelphia, PA (215) 241-1090
Phone numbers for other offices: http://www.toomey.senate.gov/?p=home