“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,” the letter states.
The signers, representing 177 law schools from 49 states, addressed the letter to Chairman Charles Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a ranking member of the committee. The professors address a wide range of concerns, including Sessions’ history of racist rhetoric, his views on women’s rights, his promotion of the debunked voter fraud myth, his anti-LGBT positions, his stance on building a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and his policies on drugs that perpetuate mass incarceration.
“Some of us share all of these concerns,” the letter reads.
Specifically, the letter points to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 1986 (at which time the Senate was controlled by Republicans) when Sessions was rejected to be a district judge in Alabama. He was the second judge to be rejected in 48 years — and his inflammatory racist comments and remarks were what cost him the position.
“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 lawyers write.
Sessions referred to a white civil rights lawyer as a “disgrace to his race” for taking on voting rights cases. He also called the Voting Rights Act (VRA) a “piece of intrusive legislation.” Further, Sessions referred to civil rights groups the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP as “un-American.” He also once said he thought members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) “were okay until I found out they smoked pot.” Additionally, Thomas H. Figures, an African American who was a federal prosecutor at the time, said Sessions once called him “boy.”
The committee’s confirmation hearings for Sessions are scheduled for January 10 and 11.
On Wednesday, three former Justice Department civil rights lawyers penned an op-ed for The Washington Post slamming Sessions’ recent claims that he has worked extensively on civil rights cases.
In a questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions claimed he “personally” litigated three voting rights cases and one school desegregation case. When met with backlash for this claim, he said he gave “assistance and guidance” for the cases.
However, the former lawyers worked in the division that handled the lawsuits and said Sessions contributed “no substantive involvement” to them.
“He did what any U.S. attorney would have had to do: He signed his name on the complaint, and we added his name on any motions or briefs. That’s it,” the article reads.
Public opposition of Sessions’ nomination has been growing since Trump’s decision in November. On Wednesday, CNN contributor Angela Rye and William Smith, who worked with Sessions for two decades and served on the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Sessions, got in an on-air argument over Sessions’ history of racism.
“I don’t know if Jeff Sessions is a racist,” she said. “I don’t know if he is a bigot. I gave you the fruit. I know one thing. We know a tree by the fruit it bears. So you can call it what you want to.”
“Because you are the one Black guy that he hired on the committee doesn’t make him a civil rights leader, William,” she added.
Smith had previously said those who oppose Sessions are spreading “false rumors” because “they don’t like [Sessions’] policies.”
On Tuesday, six civil rights activists were arrested for occupying Sessions’ Alabama office in protest of his nomination. The protesters arrested included Cornell Brooks, president and CEO of the NAACP; Stephen Green, national director of the youth division of the NAACP; and Benard Simelton, president of the NAACP’s Alabama state conference.
“Senator Sessions has callously ignored the reality of voter suppression but zealously prosecuted innocent civil rights leaders on trumped-up charges of voter fraud,” Brooks said in a news release. The NAACP has previously called Sessions’ nomination “despicable and unacceptable.”
Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for Sessions, said in a statement, “Many African American leaders who’ve known him for decades attest to this and have welcomed his nomination to be the next Attorney General.”