Because He Was Wrong on So Much…
I am proud of the fact that the NAPD Steering Committee voted to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions for Attorney General of the United States. I am proud that NAPD disregarded the obvious—that in a US Senate controlled tightly 52-48, and in a system where party loyalty and discipline mean more than voting on the merits, it was virtually impossible for Sessions not to become the Attorney General. We knew he would be approved, and we opposed him anyway.
I am proud that prior to our voting NAPD studied who Sessions had been and what he was today. NAPD did not take opposition lightly. Instead, a group of four members of the Steering Committee along with the author spent hours studying his record, discussed that record, and then made a recommendation to the Steering Committee to oppose his nomination. This was principled opposition based upon his record.
I am proud that NAPD didn’t let possible funding from DOJ and others trump what we saw as the right thing to do. NAPD has a limited budget that funds three part-time staff. Funding comes almost exclusively from member dues. Certainly, a grant would make life easier for NAPD. But this consideration did not deter the Steering Committee from its opposition.
I am proud that NAPD submitted questions to Senators on the Judiciary Committee in order to have Sessions on the record about his positions on public defense. We sent questions about DOJ’s role in ensuring adequate funding of public defense systems, excessive caseloads, statements of interest, fines and fees, no counsel courts, racism in the criminal justice system, the death penalty, civil forfeiture, voting rights for persons convicted of felonies, and overincarceration. They were important questions that should have been asked and answered. Without having answers to those questions, we had nothing to go on except for Sessions’ past statements and actions.
NAPD expressed its opposition in a statement issued January 19th and released to the public. You can read the entire statement here: https://www.mygideon.org/@api/deki/files/85275/NAPD_Statement_Re_Sessions_Nomination_1_19_17.pdf.
I hope NAPD is proven wrong. I hope that a Sessions’ Department of Justice will stand for civil rights for all of us. I hope that DOJ will file statements of interest on the systemic failure to uphold the Sixth Amendment. I hope that DOJ will not turn a blind eye to police misconduct or to voter suppression. I hope that the Civil Rights Division remains a beacon of hope for the nation’s marginalized and oppressed. I hope that this DOJ will host a thriving and influential Access to Justice office that has sufficient resources to be able to improve public defense across the nation.