It was March of 1986. I was in Washington, D.C. before the Senate Judiciary Committee testifying against the nomination of Jefferson Beauregard Session for Federal District Judge. His nomination was not confirmed. Now, some 30 years later, we are faced with his nomination again. This time, it’s for United States Attorney General to head the U.S. Justice Department. This governmental agency helps pick all nominees for federal judges, U.S. attorneys and some other positions. More importantly, the Attorney General is charged with doing justice for all. In my opinion, Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
I have had first-hand experience with U S. Attorney Jeff Sessions, Alabama Attorney General and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions. I was the initial attorney in the 1985 voter prosecution cases involving Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner and Spencer Hogue, commonly known as the “Marion Three.” They were charged with 72 counts of voter fraud and wire fraud. I organized the defense, bringing in outstanding lawyers from around the country such as Howard Moore of California, Morton Stavis of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Lani Guinier and Deval Patrick of the Legal Defense Fund and J.L. Chestnut, Jr. and Robert Turner of Chestnut, Sanders, Sanders and Turner. A jury of Black and White citizens found all three not guilty on all counts. I later testified before the U. S. Senate about this case and other matters. To me, race was the deciding factor. Senator Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
I know firsthand that Black leaders had complained many times about illegal use of absentee voting by Whites in Perry County. The U.S. Justice Department said that there was nothing they could do and Blacks would just have to learn to utilize absentee ballots. However, when Blacks learned to effectively use absentee ballots, Whites began to complain. All of a sudden, the U.S. Justice Department decided that it could do something about absentee voting. U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions led the way. To me, race was the deciding factor. Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
But it was not just this case alone. Jeff Sessions had said many things that disqualified him: the NAACP and ACLU were “un-American and communist inspired organizations”; a White Mobile lawyer who was helping with civil rights cases was a “traitor to his race,” the Klan seemed alright to him until he learned they smoked pot; called African American lawyer Thomas Figures “a boy”; and told Thomas Figures that he should “be careful how he talked to White folk.” All these actions were clearly race based just as the persecution of Albert Turner, Evelyn Turner and Spencer Hogue was race based. Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
I know some of you will say that this case happened 30 years ago and Jeff Sessions may have changed. However, I have not seen any evidence that he apologized or even acknowledged his errors. I have not seen any evidence of change. I do see evidence that confirms these earlier tendencies. Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
Let’s look at the record of U. S. Senator Jeff Sessions as it pertains to justice. He voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. He voted against the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. He voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which helps women get equal pay for equal work. These acts were not 30 ago but within the last few years. Senator Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
But there is more. When judicial nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sessions opposed them if they had in any way worked for civil rights. In 2016, one nominee for a federal judgeship was attacked because she was from a law firm that represented the family of Freddy Gray against the City of Baltimore for police brutality. She was not even the lawyer on the case. He complained on the Senate Floor that the judges that President Obama nominated had “ACLU DNA” and “ACLU Chromosomes.” Anyone who worked to protect civil and constitutional rights is suspect to Senator Sessions. How can he enforce constitutional and civil right laws when he feels so strongly against anyone who works for such rights? Senator Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
In other civil rights matters, Senator Sessions has opposed efforts to restore the Voting Rights Act. He supported a federal Constitutional Amendment to ban same sex marriage. He opposed the bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the U. S. Senate. He supports the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. How is he going to enforce rights for all of us when he is against them? Senator Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
Just last year, I and others traveled to Washington, D.C. to persuade Senator Jeff Sessions to allow some Black judges to be considered for confirmation if they were nominated. Absolutely nothing came of the efforts. During the 20 years Jeff Sessions has been in the U.S. Senate, only one Black person has been appointed as a federal judge in a state that is 26 percent African American. That one appointment filled the seat vacated by African American Federal Judge U.W. Clemon. Senator Session has not done justice as a U. S. Attorney, an Alabama Attorney General or U. S. Senator. Senator Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.
EPILOGUE - We never know for certain what a person will do in the future. However, we can gauge what a person will do in the future by what they did in the past. Based on his long past, Jeff Sessions cannot do justice as head of the Justice Department.