A group of 1,140 legal scholars from 170 different universities in 48 states are uniting in resistance to President-elect Trump’s pick for Attorney General. The law professors sent a letter to Congress on Tuesday urging the Senate to reject the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), saying that “given his record, Sen. Sessions is unable to fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States.”
“We are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States,” states the letter, signed by prominent legal scholars including Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of California, Irvine School of Law.
Addressing the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, along with committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-California), the law professors cited the Senate’s past rejection of Sessions for a federal judgeship in 1986, during the Reagan administration, in which his career as U.S. Attorney came up.
During his tenure in the Department of Justice, Sessions relentlessly prosecuted black civil rights organizers who faced trumped-up voter fraud charges that could have landed them in prison for decades, simply for helping elderly black voters fill out registration forms. Sessions had referred to the landmark Voting Rights Act “an intrusive piece of legislation.” All of the charges against the organizers were subsequently dropped.
Sessions’ rejection for the post was only the second time in 49 years that the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected a presidential appointee to a federal court.
“How any black person would be able to feel they are going to have impartial justice from Mr. Sessions is beyond me,” Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) said of Sessions at the time.
“Nothing in Senator Sessions’ public life since 1986 has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge,” the law professors wrote.
“Some of us have concerns about his support for building a wall along our country’s southern border. Some of us have concerns about his robust support for regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration. Some of us have concerns about his questioning of the relationship between fossil fuels and climate change. Some of us have concerns about his repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community. Some of us share all of these concerns.”
The letter, signed by professors from 170 law schools in 48 states, is also scheduled to run as a full-page newspaper ad aimed at members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will be holding confirmation hearings for Sessions on Jan. 10-11.