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Law & the Courts

More Than 1,100 Law Professors Oppose Jeff Sessions; Nobody Should Care

Via the front page of the Washington Post website comes the “news” that more than 1,100 law professors signed their names to a letter urging the Senate to reject Jeff Sessions’s nomination for attorney general. I’m sorry, but the cost of relentless academic partisanship is academic credibility. Is it “news” that leftists don’t like a conservative nominee? Perhaps if law schools were known for scrupulous nonpartisan hiring practices and balanced presentations of ideological issues, the letter would be compelling. But they’re not, and it’s not. 

Here’s the body of the professors’ letter, in full:

We are 1140 faculty members from 170 different law schools in 48 states across the country. We urge you to reject the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for the position of Attorney General of the United States.

In 1986, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan vote, rejected President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of then-U.S. Attorney Sessions for a federal judgeship, due to statements Sessions had made that reflected prejudice against African Americans. 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.

Some of us have concerns about his misguided prosecution of three civil rights activists for voter fraud in Alabama in 1985, and his consistent promotion of the myth of voter-impersonation fraud. 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.

All of us believe it is unacceptable for someone with Senator Sessions’ record to lead the Department of Justice.

The Attorney General is the top law enforcement officer in the United States, with broad jurisdiction and prosecutorial discretion, which means that, if confirmed, Jeff Sessions would be responsible for the enforcement of the nation’s civil rights, voting, immigration, environmental, employment, national security, surveillance, antitrust, and housing laws.

As law faculty who work every day to better understand the law and teach it to our students, we are convinced that Jeff Sessions will not fairly enforce our nation’s laws and promote justice and equality in the United States. We urge you to reject his nomination.

This isn’t an argument, it’s a regurgitation of Huffington Post headlines, and (shamefully, given that this is a law professors’ letter) they don’t even have the decency to note that Sessions’ vigorously disputes allegations of his racism, including allegations that he made racist statements.  

Also, I’m curious — given that the letter touches on everything from climate change to immigration policy, what exactly are the scientific, economic, and national security credentials of the signatories? Can they speak to the impact of immigration on working-class wages? Are they authorities on the precise relationship between fossil fuels and climate, including on the relative effectiveness of Obama-era EPA actions? And if there are actual examples of in-person voter fraud, is it still a “myth?”

What’s actually happening is that a collection of liberals are using the (rapidly-diminishing) prestige of their institutions and profession to make news when there is none. Of course liberals oppose a conservative nominee, and of course academic liberals are prone to play the race card. If any of them wish to make a detailed case based on law and facts, then make that case. Until then, however, their letter is little more than an especially pretentious version of a petition.



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