Northwestern law profs sign letter against Jeff Sessions’ attorney general nomination


Michael Brochstein/Zuma Press/TNS

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions campaigns for Donald Trump in October. Sessions has been offered the position of attorney general.

Matthew Choi, Campus Editor

More than 1,300 faculty members of law schools across the country, including 29 from Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, signed a letter opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-Ala.) appointment for U.S. attorney general.

The letter, organized by a group of seven law school professors from across the country — including one from Northwestern — decried Sessions’ voting record and public support for policies they say are regressive and promote discrimination. The letter urges senators to reject the nomination, which was made by President-elect Donald Trump.

Organizers delivered the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and plan to publish it Monday as an advertisement in newspapers in Maine and South Carolina, said Northwestern law Prof. Alison Flaum, one of the original organizers of the statement.

The statement said Sessions has a history of prejudiced remarks, support for “regressive drug policies that have fueled mass incarceration” and “repeated opposition to legislative efforts to promote the rights of women and members of the LGBTQ community.” Sessions had previously been rejected of a federal judgeship by a Republican-controlled Senate in 1986 due to prejudiced remarks against African Americans, according to the statement.

“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 letter said.

Sessions and his office could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Within 72 hours of publishing the letter, more than 1,000 signatories joined the statement. Faculty from law schools in all states except Alaska — which does not have a law school — have since signed the statement. The letter remains open for law faculty to sign.

“We were really surprised and heartened by the breath of the response, not only hearing from so many people, but from professors literally all over the country,” Flaum said.

Northwestern law Prof. Grace Dodier said she heard about the letter through colleagues at NU and decided to sign the letter hoping it would prompt senators to critically examine Sessions’ past actions when deciding whether to approve his nomination.

“He’s a person who’s expressed opinions and taken positions that are inconsistent with the role that he would assume as the country’s chief law-enforcement officer,” Dodier said. “So I wanted to go on the record as saying that I don’t support this particular nominee.”

Though it is difficult to tell the odds of convincing a Republican-controlled Senate to vote against Sessions’ nomination, Dodier said she hopes the letter will spark conversation among lawmakers and citizens about the nominee’s qualifications.

Flaum added that it’s improbable that the current Senate will reject the nomination, but she felt that as a lawyer and law professor, she needed to make a public objection.

“The Code of Professional Responsibility, which is sort of the lawyer’s ethical playbook, talks about how every lawyer has the standard calling, the special responsibility for the quality of justice,” Flaum said. “As someone who teaches law and helps train and support new lawyers, that meant speaking up and supporting the people who are doing the same, even though the odds are long.”

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