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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Statement Ahead of AG Jeff Sessions’ Appearance Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

For Immediate Release October 13, 2017

Under Oath Before Senate Judiciary Next Week, AG Sessions Must Be Pressed On Key Civil Rights Issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Next week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his first oversight hearing since being installed as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer in February.  In his first eight months, Attorney General Sessions has taken unprecedented steps to rollback core civil rights protections in employment and education, reversed the Department’s position in key voting rights litigation, stalled work to address unconstitutional policing practices and taken steps to promote a discriminatory and ideological agenda.

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, on Friday urged Senators to press Attorney General Sessions on key civil rights matters at next week’s hearing:

“This oversight hearing of the Justice Department is long overdue. With significant evidence of politicization of the Justice Department’s work, particularly within the Civil Rights Division, it is critical the Senate Judiciary Committee fulfills its oversight role. The work of the Civil Rights Division is uniquely important, and meaningful enforcement of our civil rights law is needed now more than ever. Attorney General Jeff Sessions must be held accountable for the significant changes that have taken place on his watch, which have virtually brought federal civil rights enforcement to a grinding halt.  Few cases have been filed in the Civil Rights Division, and the mission of the agency has been thwarted with unprecedented actions, such as an investigation into the affirmative action efforts of colleges and universities.

“We also urge the Senate to closely examine evidence that the Division is engaged in collusion with the highly controversial, so-called Election Integrity Commission. The goals of the Commission are fully antithetical to the mission of the Division, which is charged with fighting—not promoting—voter suppression.”

Other areas of inquiry for next week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing include:

  • Litigation/ Solicitor General’s office: The Department of Justice has reversed its position in Supreme Court cases involving voting rights (Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute) and workers’ rights (NLRB v. Murphy Oil), and in an unusual move filed an amicus brief in a case impacting LGBT rights (Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission).
  • Education: In response to a FOIA request filed by the Lawyers’ Committee, the Department acknowledged it is investigating the admissions practices of Harvard University.
  • Criminal Justice: From his rejection of consent decrees and his renewed war on drugs, to ending the Smart on Crime program, Attorney General Sessions has taken drastic steps to turn back the clock on police reform and paved the way for stricter sentencing in criminal cases.
  • Hate Crimes: Since convening a summit on hate crimes in June, Attorney General Sessions has done nothing to activate the Civil Rights Division to protect vulnerable populations including the LGBTQ community.

The last time he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as a nominee to lead the Department of Justice, then-Senator Jeff Sessions dramatically misrepresented the nature of his communications with Russian officials.  Next week, the American people deserve honest and straight answers from the Attorney General.


About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 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.  Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.”  The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

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