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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Response to Anticipated Nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General of the United States

For Immediate Release November 18, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued the following statement regarding the anticipated nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general of the United States:

“Our country is gripped by a rise in racially-motivated hate crimes. These tumultuous times demand an attorney general who will bring an aggressive commitment to enforcement of federal civil rights laws.  The attorney general of the United States is the most important law enforcement officer in the nation.  This is a role that requires the ability to ensure equal justice under law for all.

If Senator Jeff Sessions is indeed the ultimate nominee put forward for this position, there will be hard questions that must be asked regarding his commitment to enforcing federal laws that concern issues such as voting rights, fair housing, and criminal justice among other issues.  His record and statements on issues of race raise questions about how faithful he will be in protecting the rights of African-Americans, Latinos and other minority groups.

Senator Sessions:

  • Led opposition to a bipartisan effort in 2016 to ease sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders;
  • Co-sponsored the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act which would prohibit the use of federal funds to implement, administer, or enforce HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule;
  • Voted against the confirmation of Justice Sotomayor and called Justice Sotomayor unsuitable for the bench due to her past affiliation with a civil rights organization;
  • Voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell;
  • Voted against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act;
  • Voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act;
  • Voted against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act;
  • Opposed President Obama’s 2012 Executive Action on immigration which granted deportation relief and work permits to thousands of undocumented immigrants (DACA); and
  • Described the Voting Rights Act as a ‘piece of intrusive legislation.’

During his nomination for a federal judgeship, which was ultimately defeated by a bipartisan coalition of senators, testimony was received indicating that Sessions described a white civil rights lawyer litigating a voting rights case as a “disgrace to his race.” One African-American Assistant U.S. Attorney testified that Sessions described the KKK as “Ok until I found out they smoked pot.” Questions loom regarding his prosecution of three Black voting rights activists (known as the “Marion Three”) for allegedly committing voter fraud, during his tenure as Alabama Attorney General from 1994-1996.  The activists were all quickly acquitted.

We approach this nomination, if it does come to pass, with skepticism and deep concern.  Gains that have been made with respect to civil rights help to move our nation forward.  Our nation deserves an attorney general who will bring unquestionable commitment to full and fair enforcement of our nation’s federal civil rights laws.”

About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; and criminal justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.

CONTACT:
Stacie Burgess
Director of Communications and External Affairs
[email protected]
202-662-8317
 
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