JOINING THE CLUB: Sessions “Lawyers Up!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/attorney-general-sessions-retains-a-personal-attorney/2017/06/20/698d9828-55f0-11e7-ba90-f5875b7d1876_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_sessionslawyer-941pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7a3bb2306c43

Sari Horwitz reports in the Washington Post:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has been under fire in recent months for his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race, has retained the services of Washington lawyer Charles J. Cooper, a longtime friend.

Cooper was seen sitting behind Sessions when he testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump and Russia.

“I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,” Cooper wrote in an email to The Washington Post.

Cooper, a partner with his own firm, Cooper & Kirk, would not say when he was retained by Sessions or whether he is representing Sessions in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump and Russia. Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump on the campaign trail, was a top adviser to Trump during his race for president.

Cooper also assisted Sessions with his January confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, discussing those preparations in an interview with The Post at the time.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, described Cooper as “the attorney general’s longtime friend and counsel.”

The National Law Journal first reported that Cooper is now Sessions’s personal attorney.

Cooper, who clerked for Justice William H. Rehnquist on the Supreme Court, served in the Justice Department’s civil rights division and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. He was also a partner at McGuireWoods and at Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge.

Cooper was also under consideration to serve as the Justice Department’s solicitor general. He withdrew his name in February, citing his concern after watching Sessions go through the confirmation process to become attorney general.

“After witnessing the treatment that my friend Jeff Sessions, a decent and honorable man who bears only good will and good cheer to everyone he meets, had to endure at the hands of a partisan opposition that will say anything and do anything to advance their political interests, I am unwilling to subject myself, my family and my friends to such a process,” Cooper said in a statement at the time.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

I think Cooper confuses “geniality” with “goodwill.” That Sessions is a bearer of “goodwill” would be news to most blacks, hispanics, immigrants, migrants, and LGBT individuals in the U.S. Yes, we’ve all noted that he is “genial.” But the South has been famous for producing polite, charming, genial white politicians who spent careers making sure that African Americans were denied their legal and constitutional rights, their human dignity, and their rights to fully participate in American society. Actions speak louder than words. And, since assuming the office of Attorney General, Sessions’s actions have been geared specifically at implementing a nationalist agenda inconsistent with the interests of many Americans, particularly minorities, immigrants, and the LGBT community.

As I have said numerous times over the past five months, the Trump Administration has been a “lawyer’s dream.” Prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, and legal reporters have all been very busy, and that’s not likely to change.

PWS

06-20-17

 

Welcome To Jeff Sessions’s America — In 1957 Sessions Was 10 Years Old And His White Christian Fellow Alabamans Were Busy Perverting The “Rule Of Law” To Deny Their African American Fellow Citizens Constitutional Rights, Fundamental Justice, & Human Dignity!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-white-cop-dies-and-a-young-black-man-spends-years-in-jail-for-a-crime-he-didnt-do/2017/06/16/d771059e-4706-11e7-a196-a1bb629f64cb_story.html?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-arts%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.a94b2ba61075

Colbert I. king writes in the Washington Post:

“How is it possible in a country that prides itself on having a Bill of Rights, expresses reverence for due process and touts equal protection that a 17-year-old can be arrested, put on trial and sentenced to death, and then spend 13 years being shuttled among death row cellblocks in disgusting jails and prisons with his case under appeal, all for a crime he didn’t commit?

The answer contains some simple prerequisites: He had to be black, live in the Jim Crow South and be accused of committing, as one deputy sheriff put it, a “supreme offense, on the same level of a white woman being raped by a black man” — that is, the murder of a white police officer.

Teenager Caliph Washington, a native of Bessemer, Ala., was on the receiving end of all three conditions. And as such, Washington became a sure-fire candidate to suffer the kind of tyrannical law enforcement and rotten jurisprudence that Southern justice reserved for blacks of any age.

In “He Calls Me by Lightning,” S. Jonathan Bass, a professor at Alabama’s Samford University and a son of Bessemer parents, resurrects the life of Washington, who died in 2001 finally out of prison — but with charges still hanging over his head.

 

Bass, however, does more than tell Washington’s tale, as Washington’s widow, Christine, had asked him to do in a phone call. Bass dives deeply into the Bessemer society of 1957 where Washington was accused of shooting white police officer James “Cowboy” Clark on an empty dead-end street near a row of run-down houses on unpaved Exeter Alley.

Bessemer-style justice cannot be known, let alone understood, however, without learning about that neo-hardscrabble town 13 miles southwest of Birmingham.

Bessemer served as home to a sizable black majority, an entrenched white power structure and an all-white police department, consisting at the time of a “ragtag crew of poorly paid, ill-trained, and hot-tempered individuals” who earned less than Bessemer’s street and sanitation workers.

Bessemer was a town with its own quaint racial customs, such as forcing black men to “walk in the middle of the downtown streets, not on the sidewalks, after dark — presumably to keep them from any close contact with white women.”

 

Bessemer was a town where in 1944 the police forced black prisoners to participate in an Independence Day watermelon run. White citizens reportedly cheered as firefighters blasted the inmates with high-pressure hoses to make the race more challenging. Winners, it is said, received reduced sentences and the watermelons.

It was in that town that Caliph Washington was born in 1939, the same year of my birth in Washington, D.C.

Bessemer’s racial climate was no different the year Washington was accused of killing Cowboy Clark. The town’s prevailing attitude on race was captured at the time in a pamphlet distributed by a segregationist group, the Bessemer Citizens’ Council. Black Christians, the white citizens’ council said, should remain content with being “our brothers in Christ without also wanting to become our brothers-in-law.”

If ever there was a place to not get caught “driving while black” — which is what Washington was doing on that fateful night in July 1957 — it was Bessemer. And that night’s hazard appeared in the form of Clark and his partner, Thurman Avery, who were cruising the streets in their patrol car looking for whiskey bootleggers.”

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Read the rest of King’s op-ed at the link.

So, when you hear Sessions and his White Nationalist buddies like Bannon, Miller, Kobach, and Pence extolling the virtues of a small Federal Government (except for the migrant-bashing mechanisms) state control of voting, civil rights, police conduct, gender fairness, environmental regulations, labor relations, filling the prisons with maximum sentences, a new war on drugs, etc., it’s just clever code for “let’s make sure that white-dominated state and local governments can keep blacks, hispanics, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities from achieving power, equality, and a fair share of the pie.” After all, if you believe, as these guys do, that true democracy can be a bad thing if it means diversity and power sharing, then you’re going to abuse the legal and political systems any way you can to maintain your hold on power.

And, of course, right-wing pontificating about the “rule of law” means  nothing other than selective application of some laws to the disadvantage of minorities, immigrants, and often women. You can see how selective Sessions’s commitment to the rule of law is when he withdraws DOJ participation in voting rights cases in the face of strong evidence of racial gerrymandering, withdraws support from protections for LGBT individuals, supports imprisonment in substandard prisons, targets legal marijuana, and “green lights” troubled police departments to prioritize aggressive law enforcement over the protection of minority citizens’ rights. Ethics laws, in particular, seems to be far removed from the Sessions/Trump concept of “Rule of Law.” And, sadly, this is only the beginning of the Trump Administration’s assault on our Constitution, our fundamental values, and the “real” “Rule of Law.”

PWS

06-18-17

Chris Cillizza In WashPost: Gonzo’s Bad Week! AG Appears Both Out Of Favor & Under Investigation — What More Could You Want From The USG’s Top Lawyer?

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/10/politics/jeff-sessions-worst-week/index.html

“Washington (CNN)When stories about you offering to resign due to increasingly strained relations with your boss are the high point of your week, you know it’s not been a good seven days.

That’s how it went for Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week.
Things started off poorly when a series of pieces detailed his ongoing issues with President Donald Trump. This, from CNN’s Sara Murray and Stephen Collinson, paints an ugly picture for Sessions:
“Sessions and the President have had a series of heated exchanges in recent weeks, prompted by the attorney general’s decision to recuse himself from the probe into Russia interference in the election and alleged collusion by Trump aides, a source close to Sessions told CNN on Tuesday.”
“At one point, Sessions made clear he would be willing to resign if Trump no longer wanted him.”
Comey: AG may have met ambassador a third time

Comey: AG may have met ambassador a third time 01:34
Trump doesn’t like to ever apologize, retreat or concede. On anything. Sessions did just that, in Trump’s eyes, when he recused himself from the federal Russia probe after it was revealed he had not disclosed two meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign. Trump didn’t like the decision at the time and has come to view it as the root of everything that led to the appointment of Bob Mueller as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation.”

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Read Cillizza’s full story at the link.

Regardless of whether he gets indicted, Gonzo Apocalypto’s sleaze factor is high. And his “gonzo” policies on immigration, crime, civil rights, and human rights are bad for American justice. It was also clear from Comey’s testimony that he didn’t view Sessions as a person of integrity, nor did he trust him as far as he could throw him.

Liz was right!

PWS

06-10-17

NYT: Trump, Sessions Split Brewing? — Apparently The Donald Expected AG To Be Complete Toady — Unpleasantly Suprised With Independence!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/05/us/politics/trump-discontent-attorney-general-jeff-sessions.html?emc=edit_nn_20170606&nl=morning-briefing&nlid=79213886&te=1&_r=0

Peter Baker & Maggie Haberman report:
“WASHINGTON — Few Republicans were quicker to embrace President Trump’s campaign last year than Jeff Sessions, and his reward was one of the most prestigious jobs in America. But more than four months into his presidency, Mr. Trump has grown sour on Mr. Sessions, now his attorney general, blaming him for various troubles that have plagued the White House.

The discontent was on display on Monday in a series of stark early-morning postings on Twitter in which the president faulted his own Justice Department for its defense of his travel ban on visitors from certain predominantly Muslim countries. Mr. Trump accused Mr. Sessions’s department of devising a “politically correct” version of the ban — as if the president had nothing to do with it.

In private, the president’s exasperation has been even sharper. He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation.

Behind-the-scenes frustration would not be unprecedented in the Oval Office. Other presidents have become estranged from the Justice Department over time, notably President Bill Clinton, who bristled at Attorney General Janet Reno’s decisions to authorize investigations into him and his administration, among other things. But Mr. Trump’s tweets on Monday made his feelings evident for all to see and raised questions about how he is managing his own administration.

“They wholly undercut the idea that there is some rational process behind the president’s decisions,” said Walter E. Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general under Mr. Clinton. “I believe it is unprecedented for a president to publicly chastise his own Justice Department.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

I certainly never would have accused Trump of rationality.

It seems it doesn’t take much to go from hero to goat with Trump — another sign of an unbalanced mind at the helm of our country. I’ve been a frequent critic of Jeff Sessions for his anti-immigrant views, white nationalist associations, and totally “gonzo” views and actions on civil rights and immigration enforcement. But, it sounds like he has been trying to do the right thing in this situation and offering the President some wise counsel.  I guess there is no surer way of getting on Trump’s “hit list” than to act with some rationality and integrity.

It’s still a problem if Sessions isn’t able to control Trump’s public behavior in litigation. The head of a law firm can’t stand by and let a client, even the big one, publicly abuse and undermine his or her partners and associates.

In private practice, you sometimes have to “fire” an unruly client. In Government, you can’t fire the President, but you can “take a walk” and let folks know why you are doing it. Ultimately, Sessions (and Rosenstein, and probably Associate AG Rachel Brand) might have to decide whether to be loyal to the President or to the Department of Justice and the integrity of our justice system.

Shouldn’t really be much of a dilemma. After all, no politico expects to serve indefinitely, and each member of this trio should be readily employable in the private sector.

PWS

06-06-17

 

Supremes Find GOP’s Racist Intent Drove NC Redistricting!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/supreme-court-rules-race-improperly-dominated-nc-redistricting-efforts/2017/05/22/c159fc70-3efa-11e7-8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html

Robert Barnes reports in the Washington Post:

“The Supreme Court ruled Monday that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature relied on racial gerrymandering when drawing the state’s congressional districts, a decision that could make it easier to challenge other state redistricting plans.

The decision continued a trend at the court, where justices have found that racial considerations improperly tainted redistricting decisions by GOP-led legislatures in Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina. Some cases involved congressional districts, others legislative districts.

The states contended that their efforts were partisan moves to protect their majorities, which the Supreme Court in the past has allowed, rather than attempts to diminish the impact of minority voters, which are forbidden.

But the justices declared that North Carolina had relied too heavily on race in its efforts to “reshuffle,” in the words of Justice Elena Kagan, voters in two congressional districts. They were unanimous in rejecting one of the districts and split 5 to 3 on the other.

“This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering,” said former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., who is part of a Democratic effort focused on redistricting. “North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation. Today’s ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

North Carolina leaders said the court had made the rules regarding redistricting even murkier. Lawmakers are required to consider race when drawing legislative lines so that minorities have a chance to elect candidates of their choice when the numbers are there. But the court has said racial considerations cannot predominate when drawing the districts.”

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Racism is an obvious problem in the Republican Party and particularly in the Trump Administration. The GOP publicly denies racist intent while regularly practicing it to maintain and “fire up” their electoral base. At some point, actions speak louder than words.

Contrary to the disingenuous statements by GOP leaders in North Carolina that the Court’s ruling is “confusing,” former US Attorney General Eric Holder has succinctly stated it: “Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law.”

While I haven’t always agreed with him, Eric is one of the brightest guys around. But, you don’t even have to be at his intellectual level to “get the message.”

One guy who is unlikely to get the message is current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.  He has pledged to “back off” of the DOJ’s aggressive stand in protecting minority voting rights, developed under AGs Holder and Lynch, and instead to defer to racist state legislative actions designed to dilute or discourage minority voting. Not surprisingly, this happens most often in the GOP controlled areas of the South.

Liz was right!

PWS

05-23-17

WashPost: Courtland Milloy Lays Bare Sessions’s White Nationalist Agenda!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-virginia-politician-calls-for-hate-to-leave-his-hometown-easier-said-than-done/2017/05/16/0ca5dc3a-3a55-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html?utm_term=.39c1a4b01e14

Milloy writes in an op-ed:

“Here’s what white supremacy really looks like:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gearing up for another “war on crime.” But first, he has to manufacture enough fear of people of color. He recently tried by declaring, falsely, that New York “continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance.”

Sessions threatened to withhold millions of dollars in federal grants from the city’s police department if the city didn’t start turning in undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

[Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy ]

In other words, if New York doesn’t have a crime problem now, Sessions would cut police funding until it did have one.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, citing the city’s low crime rate, called Sessions’s remarks “outrageous” and “pitiful.” Sessions later conceded that New York police had created “some of the best” techniques for fighting crime.

But that’s not the end of it.

Under the Trump administration, local police departments are slated to get more powerful weaponry and expanded powers to use them. Corporate prison complexes could see an increase in profits if Sessions’s push to bring back mandatory minimum sentences moves forward. Rural communities in majority white areas will get new prisons — along with jobs overseeing a veritable plantation of mostly black and Hispanic inmates.
The judiciary is a key component in the maintenance of this system. Police are rarely charged for fatally shooting someone while on duty. According to an analysis by The Washington Post and researchers at Bowling Green State University, 54 officers faced charges for such shootings between 2005 and 2015, a fraction of the fatal police shootings that occurred across the country in that time. The majority of the officers whose cases have been resolved have not been convicted, The Post found.

The Post also reported: “Among the officers charged since 2005 for fatal shootings, more than three-quarters were white. Two-thirds of their victims were minorities, all but two of them black.”

It is as if the vision of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who recently declared that white “culture and demographics are our destiny,” are coming true. In effect, black and brown lives do not matter.

And with voting rights under attack, the chances of getting elected officials who might take a stronger stance for justice becomes slimmer by the year.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that North Carolina legislators had acted “with almost surgical precision” to blunt the influence of black voters. But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made clear in a separate opinion that the ruling did not mean that court was taking a stand for or against the actions. Encouraged by the high court’s statement, the legislators have vowed to keep at their obstructionist ways.

President Trump, having fomented fears of “Mexican rapists” during his campaign, announced Monday that he was cracking down on a Mexican gang. “MS-13 is going to be gone from our streets very soon, believe me,” he said, during a ceremony for slain police officers. “When policing is reduced, it’s often the poorest and most vulnerable Americans who are the first to suffer. We have all seen the tragic rise in violence and crimes in many of our disadvantaged communities.”
But Trump offered no plan for dealing with that disadvantage. Nothing about more jobs or affordable housing. Not better health care — just more police officers with bigger guns.

No need for the white protesters to wave Confederate flags and chant “white power.” Trump and Sessions know how to placate them by attacking black freedoms.

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PWS

05-17-17

MARJORIE COHN IN HUFFPOST: Destroying American Justice From The Inside — The “Gonzo-Apocalypto Era” Takes Hold At The USDOJ!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jeff-sessions-department-of-injustice_us_590dd80ee4b0f711807244f1

Cohn writes:

“Motivated by his deep-seated biases and those of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pursuing a draconian agenda on voting rights, immigration, crime, policing, the drug war, federal sentencing and the privatization of prisons.

Sessions, now head of the Department of Justice, which is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act, once called the act “intrusive.” In 2013, after the Supreme Court issued a decision in “Shelby County v. Holder” that struck down the section of the act that established a formula for preclearance of jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination, Sessions called it “a good day for the South.”

Sessions and Trump tout the existence of what the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School calls a “phantom crime wave.” While this administration scaremongers about high crime rates, in reality, national crime and murder rates are at a near-historic low: 50 percent less than they were at their peak in 1991.

Trump’s campaign mantra was “law and order,” a euphemism for tolerating excessive force by police officers, often against people of color. Trump speaks of “American carnage” in the cities and a “war” on the police. His bogus rhetoric is aimed at Black Lives Matter, which arose in response to increasing numbers of police shootings, particularly of nonwhites.

The president depicts police reform measures as “anti-law enforcement” and Sessions is fully on board with this framing. In 2015, when he was a senator, Sessions said that police reform movements endanger public safety and hinder police work.

Sessions opposes consent decrees, which are court-enforced agreements aimed at eliminating racial profiling and excessive force by police in agencies that demonstrate “a pattern or practice” of violating civil rights. Sessions says the federal government should not be “dictating to local police how to do their jobs” (except when it comes to immigration enforcement, that is).

Amnesty International warns that Trump and Sessions’ “law and order” rhetoric could lead to higher levels of mass incarceration, long sentences and prolonged solitary confinement.

. . . .

Trump and Sessions are not disappointing the white nationalists who favor using immigration policy as a wedge to further their “alt-right” program.

Kevin de León, President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, noted, “It has become abundantly clear” that Sessions and Trump “are basing their law enforcement policies on principles of white supremacy ― not American values.”

From January to mid-March of this year, immigration arrests have increased by 33 percent. Since Trump’s inauguration, the number of arrests of immigrants with no criminal records has doubled. Roughly half of the 675 arrested in early February raids had either driving convictions or no criminal record at all, according to data obtained by The Washington Post.

Sessions drastically increased penalties for illegal reentry into the United States and ordered immigration officials to charge undocumented immigrants with higher-penalty crimes.

Although Sessions’ heavy-handed actions are based on Trump’s spurious claim that immigrants disproportionately murder and rape US citizens, studies have shown that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than citizens.

Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are arresting immigrants who come to the courthouse. This egregious practice motivated California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye to complain in a letter to the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security that ICE agents “appear to be stalking undocumented immigrants in our courthouses to make arrests.”

Terrorizing immigrants with frightful measures discourages immigrant witnesses from reporting crimes, and discourages victims from seeking legal measures and services that are meant to protect their own safety and well-being.

By March, the Los Angeles Police Department had seen a 25 percent drop in the number of Latinos reporting sexual assault and a 10 percent decrease in Latinos’ reports of domestic violence. By early April, there was a 42.8 percent drop in the number of Latinos who reported rapes to the Houston Police Department. And a health care center in Los Angeles reported a 20 percent decrease in food stamp enrollments and a 54 percent drop in enrollments for Medicaid.

The Trump administration has been arresting ― even deporting ― “Dreamers” who relied on Barack Obama’s assurances they would be protected if they came out of the shadows and provided their personal information to ICE. Dreamer Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez is a registrant in Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and was the first DACA recipient to be deported. Bojorquez, who is now in Mexico, is suing the US federal government.

On January 25, 2017, Trump signed an executive order to halt federal funding to municipal governments that don’t facilitate federal immigration enforcement. Trump’s order is aimed at “sanctuary cities” that protect immigrants from deportation.

In March, Sessions threatened officials in nine jurisdictions with losing their 2016 grants if they failed to certify by June 30 that they were in compliance with a law that forbids local authorities from forcing officials to withhold information about immigration status from federal authorities.

But the majority of sanctuary policies do not cover information sharing. Most address how to handle “detainers,” where federal immigration officials request that state or local authorities continue to detain people who are eligible for release. Courts have said jurisdictions cannot be forced to honor those detainers.

Trump’s January 25 order is blocked, for now. US District Judge William H. Orrick III issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that forbids the federal government from withholding funds from municipal governments that don’t fully cooperate with immigration agents.

Orrick also ruled the federal government can’t legally force counties to hold undocumented people beyond their release dates. The judge concluded Trump’s order likely violates due process, the separation of powers doctrine, and the 10th Amendment, which prevents federal interference with state and local self-government. Only Congress can limit spending, Orrick wrote.

This is Trump’s third executive order halted by federal courts. His first and second Muslim bans are now pending in the 9th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeals.

. . . .

After Trump nominated Sessions for attorney general, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) stated, “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

Indeed, no one is worse equipped to lead the Department of Justice. Sessions’ racism is prominently on display in every action he has taken during his short tenure in Trump’s cabinet.

It is critical that “we the people” continue to resist, in every way we can, the Trump-Sessions pattern and practice of injustice.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. Follow her on Twitter. Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.”

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Read the entire article over on HuffPost.

So much damage in so little time. And, I’m sure the worst is yet to come. Most impressive in a depressingly negative way! Senators Liz Warren, Cory Booker, and others were right!

PWS

05-07-17

HUFFPOST: How White Nationalist “Know Nothing” Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Tanked Needed Police Reform In Chicago Without Even BOTHERING TO READ The DOJ’s 160 Page Report!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doj-police-reform-jeff-sessions-chicago_us_58f50a77e4b0da2ff86254cf?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000 report on HuffPost:

Ryan J. Reilly & Kim Bellware report in HuffPost:

“CHICAGO ― In the final months of the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division scrambled to complete its biggest-ever investigation of a city police department: a 13-month probe of Chicago’s 12,000-strong police force that wrapped up just a week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

For more than a year, the division’s lawyers reviewed thousands of Chicago Police Department documents, visited all 22 police districts, went on 60 ride-alongs, reviewed 170 police shooting files, examined over 425 incidents of less-lethal force, interviewed 340 department members and talked to about 1,000 Chicago residents.

Their final report, issued Jan. 13, recognized the tough job officers had in Chicago as they dealt with spiking gun violence, and praised the “diligent efforts and brave actions of countless” officers. But a “breach in trust” eroded Chicago’s ability to prevent crime, because officers were able to escape accountability when they broke the law, the report found. Because “trust and effectiveness in combating violent crime are inextricably intertwined,” the report found “broad, fundamental reform” was needed in Chicago.

Without a formal legal agreement to reform — known as a consent decree — and independent monitoring, the report concluded, reform efforts in Chicago were “not likely to be successful.”

JI SUB JEONG/HUFFPOST

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, disagrees. In recent weeks, Sessions has expressed deep skepticism about the role of the federal government in fixing broken police departments, leaving serious doubts about the ultimate outcome of the Justice Department’s work in Chicago.

Sessions wants the Justice Department to serve as the “leading advocate for law enforcement in America.” While admitting he hadn’t read the full Chicago report, he called it “anecdotal” and “not so scientifically based.” Earlier this month in Baltimore, a Justice Department lawyer said Sessions had “grave concerns” about an agreement previously reached between that city and the Obama administration. A federal judge signed off on the deal over Sessions’ objections.

In an interview with a conservative radio host this month, Sessions seemed to suggest that Justice Department investigations and consent decrees were resulting in “big crime increases.” In an op-ed for USA Today last week, Sessions wrote that consent decrees could amount to “harmful federal intrusion” that could “cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals.” There’s too much focus on “a small number of police who are bad actors,” Sessions wrote, and “too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.”

Chicago has a serious violent crime problem. Last year was the deadliest in the city in two decades, with 762 homicides. But supporters of police reform like Jonathan Smith, a former official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that Sessions was “simply wrong” to suggest that crime goes up as a result of reform (or, in Chicago’s case, an investigation). DOJ investigations can increase community confidence in police departments and make people safer, Smith argued.

JIM YOUNG / REUTERS
A protester takes part in a weekly nighttime peace march through the streets of a South Side Chicago neighborhood on September 16, 2016.

Lorie Fridell, a criminologist and police bias expert from whom the Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force solicited information for its report released last year, said DOJ investigations not only help to usher in badly need reforms to the specific departments probed, but other departments also rely on the reports to determine if their own departments are meeting constitutional standards.

“I think it’s very unfortunate the DOJ is no longer going to prioritize police reform,” Fridell said. ”The future of police reform is therefore going to have to come from the ground up. It’s going to be important for concerned individuals to demand high-quality policing.”

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Read the complete HuffPost article at the above link. And, for those of you who would like to be better informed than AG “Gonzo Apocalypto” about the need for serious police reform in Chicago, you can read the complete DOJ Civil Rights Division report here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/925846/download.

Sen. Liz Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, and others who opposed Sessions’s nomination to be AG, and told the truth about his white nationalist views (which he tried to conceal/downplay during his confirmation hearing, in addition to lying under oath about his Russian contacts) were right!

PWS

04-29-17

HISTORY: Lest We Forget, The U.S. Justice System & The Supreme Court Have Sometimes Been On The Wrong Side Of History & Justice! — Remembering The Easter Sunday Massacre In Colfax, LA & The Racist Supremes’ Intentional Perversion Of The Constitution!

http://m.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/16/1650660/-The-Easter-Sunday-massacre-in-Colfax-Louisiana-and-the-awful-Supreme-Court-decision-that-followed?detail=facebook

Denise Oliver Velez writes in the Daily Kos:

“When Christians think of the meaning of Easter Sunday, it symbolizes resurrection and hope. When I think of Easter Sunday in the black community, I think of all the ladies in their wonderful hats heading off to church. However, I don’t ever forget that Easter Sunday also marked one of the most horrible massacres of black citizens in U.S. history. It’s hard to erase the images in my mind of black bodies riddled with bullets, blown apart by cannon fire. They died at the hands of white supremacists who lost the Civil War but who won the years ahead, because they were able to destroy Reconstruction. I take a moment of silence and say a prayer for the dead, many of whose names we will never know.

This story from The Root on the Colfax Massacre, written by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., gives the details. It’s worth reading in its entirety.

In Colfax, La., on Easter Sunday 1873, a mob of white insurgents, including ex-Confederate and Union soldiers, led an assault on the Grant Parish Courthouse, the center of civic life in the community, which was occupied and surrounded — and defended — by black citizens determined to safeguard the results of the state’s most recent election. They, too, were armed, but they did not have the ammunition to outlast their foes, who, outflanking them, proceeded to mow down dozens of the courthouse’s black defenders, even when they surrendered their weapons. The legal ramifications were as horrifying as the violence — and certainly more enduring; in an altogether different kind of massacre, United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the U.S. Supreme Court tossed prosecutors’ charges against the killers in favor of severely limiting the federal government’s role in protecting the emancipated from racial targeting, especially at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.

Historians know this tragedy as the Colfax Massacre, though in the aftermath, even today, some whites refer to it as the Colfax Riot in order to lay blame at the feet of those who, lifeless, could not tell their tale. In his canonical history of the period, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, Eric Foner has called the Colfax Massacre “[t]he bloodiest single instance of racial carnage in the Reconstruction era.”

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What kind of folks would still have a racist historical marker like this in their community? What kind of state would permit it?

Interesting questions, because we now have an Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who wants to turn civil rights enforcement and local police monitoring back over to the very states and localities with appalling records of racism, exclusion, and brutality directed at African Americans and other minority communities. In other words, Sessions actively seeks a return to U.S. Government inaction in the face of white supremacy, discrimination, and violation of minority rights.

While planning to turn his back on the legitimate responsibilities of the Federal Government to protect its citizens rights from overreaching by states and localities, Sessions disingenuously plans to force those states and localities which are trying to protect the rights of those in their communities to assist in Federal immigration enforcement.

PWS

04-16-17

 

 

“GONZO-APOCALYPTO:” The Ominous Cloud Hanging Over American Justice — In Good Friday Editorials, Both NYT & WashPost Blast Sessions’s Dark, Distorted, “Gonzo-Apocalypto” Vision Of America!

First, the Washington Post ripped Sessions’s “embarrassing” withdrawal of support from African Americans and other minorities challenging the State of Texas’s scheme to disenfranchise them. A Federal Judge has twice found in favor of the plaintiffs — once with the DOJ’s support and once without!

“BLASTING “A PATTERN of conduct unexplainable on nonracial grounds, to suppress minority voting,” U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on Monday repudiated Texas’s voter-ID law, the strictest in the country. Asked by appeals court judges to reconsider her expansive 2014 ruling against the law using slightly different evidence, Ms. Ramos reaffirmed her previous determination that “the law places a substantial burden on the right to vote, which is hardly offset by Texas’s claimed benefits to voting integrity.” She found that racial discrimination was at least a partial motivation for the law, a step toward reestablishing federal supervision over Texas’s voting procedures, per the Voting Rights Act.

Given the ruling and the mountain of evidence, it is embarrassing that the Trump Justice Department dropped its support for the contention that the Texas voter law is purposely discriminatory.

The legal question is not close. “There has been a clear and disturbing pattern of discrimination in the name of combating voter fraud,” Ms. Ramos wrote in 2014. The only type of fraud the law could combat — voter impersonation — hardly ever happens. Meanwhile, the law’s backers knew it would disproportionately impact minority voters; in fact, they designed it so. “The Texas Legislature accepted amendments that would broaden Anglo voting and rejected amendments that would broaden minority voting,” Ms. Ramos found in her 2014 examination. Texas accepts relatively few forms of identification at the polls, and those it does accept, such as gun licenses, are those white Texans tend to hold. Unlike many voter-ID states, Texas does not relax ID rules much for the elderly or the indigent, though obtaining an accepted ID can be surprisingly time-consuming and expensive.”

Read the complete editorial here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/its-time-for-the-justice-department-to-disown-texass-discriminatory-voting-law/2017/04/13/ee63a0e0-1ef7-11e7-ad74-3a742a6e93a7_story.html

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Meanwhile, A NY Times editorial slammed Session’s disingenuous plan to make immigrants the “#1 target” of law enforcement in the “Trump era.” The emphasis is mine.

Here’s the full editorial:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions went to the border in Arizona on Tuesday and declared it a hellscape, a “ground zero” of death and violence where Americans must “take our stand” against a tide of evil flooding up from Mexico.

It was familiar Sessions-speak, about drug cartels and “transnational gangs” poisoning and raping and chopping off heads, things he said for years on the Senate floor as the gentleman from Alabama. But with a big difference:  Now he controls the machinery of federal law enforcement, and his gonzo-apocalypto vision of immigration suddenly has force and weight behind it, from the officers and prosecutors and judges who answer to him.

When Mr. Sessions got to the part about the “criminal aliens and the coyotes and the document forgers” overthrowing our immigration system, the American flag behind him had clearly heard enough — it leaned back and fell over as if in a stupor. An agent rushed to rescue it, and stood there for the rest of the speech: a human flag stand and metaphor. A guy with a uniform and gun, wrapped in Old Glory, helping to give the Trump administration’s nativist policies a patriotic sheen.

It was in the details of Mr. Sessions’s oratory that his game was exposed. He talked of cities and suburbs as immigrant-afflicted “war zones,” but the crackdown he seeks focuses overwhelmingly on nonviolent offenses, the document fraud and unauthorized entry and other misdeeds that implicate many people who fit no sane definition of brutal criminal or threat to the homeland.

The problem with Mr. Sessions’s turbocharging of the Justice Department’s efforts against what he paints as machete-wielding “depravity” is how grossly it distorts the bigger picture. It reflects his long fixation — shared by his boss, President Trump — on immigration not as an often unruly, essentially salutary force in American history, but as a dire threat. It denies the existence of millions of people who are a force for good, economic mainstays and community assets, less prone to crime than the native-born — workers, parents, children, neighbors and, above all, human beings deserving of dignity and fair treatment under the law.

Mr. Sessions is ordering his prosecutors to make immigration a priority, to consider prosecution in any case involving “transportation and harboring of aliens” and to consider felony charges for an extended menu of offenses, like trying to re-enter after deportation, “aggravated identity theft” and fraudulent marriage.

He said the government was now detaining every adult stopped at the border, and vowed to “surge” the supply of immigration judges, to increase the flow of unauthorized immigrants through the courts and out of the country. He has ordered all 94 United States attorney’s offices to designate “border security coordinators,” no matter how far from “ground zero” they are.

Mr. Sessions and the administration are being led by their bleak vision to the dark side of the law. The pieces are falling into place for the indiscriminate “deportation force” that the president promised. Mr. Sessions and the homeland security secretary, John Kelly, have attacked cities and states that decline to participate in the crackdown. Mr. Sessions has threatened these “sanctuary” locales with loss of criminal-justice funding, on the false assertion that they are defying the law. (In fact, “sanctuary” cities are upholding law and order. They recognize that enlisting state and local law enforcement for deportation undermines community trust, local policing and public safety.)

Mr. Kelly recently told a Senate committee that all unauthorized immigrants are now potential targets for arrest and deportation. And so an administration that talks about machete-waving narco killers is also busily trying to deport people like Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, of Fairfield, Ohio, the mother of four citizen children, who has no criminal record.

“Be forewarned,” Mr. Sessions said in Arizona. “This is a new era. This is the Trump era.”

Let’s talk about this era. It’s an era when the illegal border flow, particularly from Mexico, has been falling for 20 years. When many of those arriving from Central America immediately surrender to border agents — having fled to the United States to find safety, not to do it harm. When American border cities enjoy safety and vitality, thanks to immigrants. When a large portion of the unauthorized population has lived here for years, if not decades, with clean records and strong roots. When polls show that Americans back reasonable and humane immigration policies giving millions a chance to get right with the law.

President Trump has shown his mind to be a place where ideas and principles can morph without warning or explanation. It is a vacuum that allows ideologues like Mr. Sessions — who know their minds — to do their worst. On immigration, that is a frightening thing to contemplate.

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“Gonzo-Apocalypto” has to be the “word of the day.” What a perfect term to describe Jeff Sessions.

In a grotesque display of disingenuous hypocrisy, Sessions referred to “drug cartels and ‘transnational gangs’ poisoning and raping and chopping off heads.” These are exactly the things causing scared, defenseless women and children to flee for their lives from the Northern Triangle and seek refuge in the U.S. But, instead of refuge they find: well, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Gen. John Kelly and others anxious to stomp out their humanity in the false name of “law enforcement.”

Turning to civil rights, I watched on the TV news last night two clips of brutal beatings and stompings of African Americans by white police officers. One victim was accused of “jaywalking”  — that’s right, “jaywalking.” The other was “driving without a license plate.” I was wondering how, after all the recent publicity, those officers could have engaged in such conduct, “on camera” no less.

Unfortunately, the answer is pretty simple “Black Lives Don’t Matter,” an attitude that obviously has just become instinctive for too many U.S. police officers. I couldn’t imagine a white pedestrian or a white motorist being treated that way in our multi-racial but predominantly white neighborhood.

Yes, the officers involved were disciplined. I believe that most or all of them were either fired, prosecuted, or both. But, that’s not the point!

The object is to prevent misuse of force by police, not to fire, prosecute, or otherwise discipline more policemen. And, prevention without compromising effectiveness of policing is exactly what the carefully crafted “consent decrees” with some problematic cities developed by the Civil Rights Division under AGs Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder achieved.

Those are the very decrees that Sessions immediately announced an intent to “review” with an obvious eye toward withdrawing or undermining them. Look at the childish behavior in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, MD, when DOJ attorneys, acting on Sessions’s behalf, withdrew their support from the consent decree and basically refused to participate in a long-scheduled public hearing. Fortunately, the judge has the good sense to go ahead and approve and finalize the consent decree without any participation by DOJ, leading to even more childish whining from Sessions about the horrors of infringing on local law enforcement in the name of African American citizen’s constitutional rights.

The very public “green light” that Sessions has given to law enforcement to run over citizen’s rights as they please, without any fear of DOJ intervention, so long as they are “enforcing the law” — like busting jaywalkers, license plate violators, and presumably undocumented aliens — no doubt plays a role in the continuing anti-minority policing being conducted by some law enforcement agencies.

Sessions “bristles” when anyone uses the term “racist” to describe him. Sessions was given a chance to make good on his (obviously false) promise during his confirmation hearings to turn over a new leaf and look at the responsibilities of being Attorney General for all Americans differently from representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Unfortunately,  his actions have proved that all of the charges his detractors made against him are as true now as they were when he was, quite properly, denied a U.S. judgeship many decades ago. If the shoe fits, wear it. And, sadly, this “shoe” fits Sessions “like a glove.” Liz was “right on.”

Finally, DHS Secretary John Kelly will see his distinguished career in public service end in ignomany if he continues “toadying up” to the ethno-nationalist views of the Sessions-Bannon-Miller crowd on immigration enforcement. Most of the arrests, deportations, detentions, denials of asylum, and removals Sessions is touting in his haste to become the new “Immigration Czar,” actually are within the jurisdiction of DHS. But, these days, you’d hardly know that Sessions isn’t in charge of DHS enforcement as well as Justice. If Kelly isn’t careful, he’s going to develop a neck injury from constantly nodding his head to every absurd “gonzo-apocalypto” immigration enforcement initiative announced by Sessions.

PWS

04-14-17

U.S. Judge Stiffs DOJ, Enters Consent Decree In Baltimore Police Case — Sessions Remains Skeptical!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/e8184a66-1c21-11e7-8598-9a99da559f9e_story.html?utm_term=.4b449e499221

Juliet Linderman (AP) reports in the Washington Post:

“BALTIMORE — A federal judge has approved an agreement negotiated under the Obama administration to overhaul the troubled Baltimore police force, sweeping aside objections from the Trump Justice Department.

President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, promptly warned that the agreement may result in “a less safe city.”

U.S. District Judge James Bredar signed the so-called consent decree Friday, a day after a hearing to solicit comments from Baltimore residents, calling the plan “comprehensive, detailed and precise.”

He denied a request to delay the signing to give the Trump administration more time to review the agreement. At Thursday’s hearing, a Justice Department attorney expressed “grave concerns” about the plan, aimed at rooting out racist practices.

The consent decree was negotiated during the closing days of the Obama administration after a federal investigation found rampant abuse by Baltimore police, including unlawful stops and use of excessive force against black people.

The investigation was prompted by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man whose neck was broken during a lurching ride in the back of a police van, where he had been left unbuckled, his hands and legs shackled. Gray’s death touched off the worst rioting in Baltimore in decades.

In a memo made public earlier this week, the Trump Justice Department signaled that it may retreat from the consent decrees that have been put in place in recent years in such cities as Cleveland; Ferguson, Missouri; Miami; and Newark, New Jersey.

Sessions said in a statement Friday that the Baltimore agreement shows “clear departures from many proven principles of good policing that we fear will result in more crime.”

“The decree was negotiated during a rushed process by the previous administration and signed only days before they left office,” Sessions said. “While the Department of Justice continues to fully support police reform in Baltimore, I have grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers of the police department and result in a less safe city.”

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While the consent decree process was probably accelerated by the Obama Administration’s accurate belief that the Trump Administration would be unlikely to uphold civil rights, particularly for African Americans, the decree was based on a detailed 163 page report that was accepted and incorporated by U.S. District Judge Bredar. Here’s a link to that report: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/883366/download.

By contrast, Session’s memorandum calling for DOJ review of consent decrees, among other things, was less than two pages, phrased in conclusory stock language, and contained no factual basis whatsoever for the review. Nor has Sessions ever explained what the problem might be with the detailed report prepared as a result of an investigation by his predecessor, Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Remarkably, Sessions obstinance comes in the same week that a court-appointed monitor found that a similar consent decree in Seattle had resulted in a dramatic reduction in incidents of police use of force against citizens while increasing neither crime nor injuries to police officers. See prior blog here: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-El.

PWS

04/09/17

 

 

4th Cir. Judges File Separate Opinion Praising Bravery Of Transgender Teen — Take Shot At Those On The “Wrong Side Of History!”

Senior Judge Davis, joined by Judge Floyd said this in a published separate opinion:

“Our country has a long and ignominious history of discriminating against our most vulnerable and powerless. We have an equally long history, however, of brave individuals—Dred Scott, Fred Korematsu, Linda Brown, Mildred and Richard Loving, Edie Windsor, and Jim Obergefell, to name just a few—who refused to accept quietly the injustices that were perpetuated against them. It is unsurprising, of course, that the burden of confronting and remedying injustice falls on the shoulders of the oppressed. These individuals looked to the federal courts to vindicate their claims to human dignity, but as the names listed above make clear, the judiciary’s response has been decidedly mixed. Today, G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed; as Dr. King reminded us, however, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” G.G.’s journey is delayed but not finished.

G.G.’s case is about much more than bathrooms. It’s about a boy asking his school to treat him just like any other boy. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins. It’s about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender people, as well as the simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that they extend to a vulnerable group that has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented, and unprotected.

. . . .

 

G.G.’s lawsuit also has demonstrated that some entities will not protect the rights of others unless compelled to do so. Today, hatred, intolerance, and discrimination persist — and are sometimes even promoted — but by challenging unjust policies rooted in invidious discrimination, G.G. takes his place among other modern-day human rights leaders who strive to ensure that, one day, equality will prevail, and that the core dignity of every one of our brothers and sisters is respected by lawmakers and others who wield power over their lives.”

The full opinion is well worth a read. Here’s a link: 161733R1.P-4th Circuit GG

Judge Davis incorporates this poem,

Famous by N.S. Nye:

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence, which knew it would inherit the earth before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth, more famous than the dress shoe, which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men who smile while crossing streets, sticky children in grocery lines, famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.

Here’s an article from yesterday’s Washington Post explaining the context of the 4th Circuit’s procedural decision and why the published, signed separate opinion is unusual.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/judges-hail-transgender-teen-gavin-grimm-as-human-rights-leader/2017/04/07/ade47f12-1bc8-11e7-bcc2-7d1a0973e7b2_story.html?utm_term=.11ce2b2d3a58

The case is G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board.

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The Trump Administration’s attacks on vulnerable individuals such as Muslims, migrants, and now transgender students have given rise to an interesting new phenomenon in the U.S. Courts of Appeals: separate published opinions vigorously commenting on or dissenting from what normally would be routine, unsigned, unpublished, barely noticed, procedural orders.

Another good example was the recent spate of published opinions dissenting and concurring with the granting of an uncontested motion by the Government to dismiss the appeal from the TRO in State of Washington v. Trump (“Travel Ban 1.0”) which I discussed in an earlier blog: http://wp.me/p8eeJm-vM

In the 9th Circuit case, several judges used separate opinions to lash out at their colleagues and show their support for the Trump Administration’s “Travel Ban 1.0.” This drew a reaction from some of their colleagues who accused the dissenters of using the forum and device of the separate opinions to deliver a message to politicians, other courts, and the parties for use in future litigation that was not yet before the court. In other words, to influence matters that were not part of the the actual “case or controversy” before the court, which was being dismissed without objection by either party.

In any event, in just a short time in office, the Trump Administration has “gotten the attention” of normally aloof and “ivory towerish” Federal Appellate Judges who seem to be energized and eager to engage in the fray with the Administration, its detractors, and each other.

PWS

04-09-17

 

MORE TRUMPIAN DISCONNECT — THE WAR ON AMERICAN CITIZENS’ RIGHTS CONTINUES: Sessions’s DOJ “Civil Rights” Div. Sent Out To Undercut Civil Rights In Baltimore Court Case — “Unprecedented And Extraordinary” — “We Are In Uncharted Territory” — “Dissed” Citizen-Victim Left In Tears By DOJ Action — In The “World Of Sessions,” Citizens’ Constitutional Rights Take Back Seat To “Fighting Crime” — Duh, Isn’t Unwarranted/Unnecessary Police Violence A Crime, Jeff? — Liz Was “Right On!”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/justice-department-expresses-skepticism-in-court-over-baltimore-police-consent-decree/2017/04/06/64d2a756-1a40-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html

Peter Hermann and Justin Jouvenal report in the Washington Post:

“BALTIMORE — A Justice Department attorney expressed “grave concerns” Thursday about moving forward with a federal plan to make changes to this city’s police department, telling a federal judge that the Trump administration prefers that revisions be made and overseen by local government.

The hearing to gather public input on the proposed consent decree became a clash over the future of police departments, as Baltimore residents affected by police shootings and beatings forcefully pushed back against any delays.

The hearing came just days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he would have top deputies review such agreements with departments nationwide.

Sessions said he wanted to ensure the agreements align with administration priorities of promoting officer safety and morale while fighting violent crime, but advocates say the move could stymie much-needed changes to departments in the wake of high-profile police shootings of minorities in recent years.

The tension was on display Thursday, as well as an unusual role reversal — the Justice Department distanced itself from its plan negotiated by President Barack Obama’s administration, while Baltimore officials, residents and activists openly embraced it.

“Please do not delay this decree,” implored Greta Carter-Willis, whose 14-year-old son was fatally shot by a police officer several years ago. “We need to turn this police department around.”

She later broke down crying.

The consent decree follows a blistering Justice Department report that found widespread constitutional violations and discrimination in the Baltimore Police Department. The report was prompted by the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured in police custody.

John Gore, the acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of Justice, said in court Thursday that the department wanted a 30-day delay on a decision to implement the plan “so new leadership can reanalyze and engage with the city as necessary.

Ultimately, “it is up to local communities to try and work with police to try and ensure reforms are implemented fully,” Gore said. “We have grave concerns that this consent decree is what is needed” as the means to change the police force and help fight crime.”

. . . .

Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, called the situation in Baltimore “unprecedented and extraordinary.” He said there is no precedent for a lead party to pull out after a consent decree is signed and the matter is before the court. “We are in uncharted territory.”

Smith, was in the Justice Department’s civil rights division under the Obama administration from 2010 through 2015 and negotiated a consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department.”

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The grotesque spectacle of Jeff Sessions in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice continues to get more jaw-dropping every day.

It wasn’t long ago that Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Nuke Em” McConnell (R-KY) shut down Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) while she was trying to “complete the record” on Sessions’s total unsuitability to be in charge of overseeing the delivery of justice in America and protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans (which actually includes immigrants who are entitled to constitutional due process protections). Everybody who doubted the truth of her message owes Sen. Warren a huge apology. And, those Senators who voted to confirm Sessions as AG should be ashamed.

Ever wonder how much damage one man can do the the U.S. justice system? Well, we’re finding out. And, it isn’t pretty.

PWS

04/07/17

 

 

Former Obama DOJ Civil Rights Officials Blast Sessions On Local Policing! — Seattle Finds Sessions Dead Wrong, Fed’s Intervention & Consent Decrees Make Dramatic Improvements, Save Citizens & Police From Unnecessary Violence!

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/opinion/dont-let-jeff-sessions-undermine-police-reform.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170406&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=9&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0&referer=

Op-Ed in the NY Times:

By VANITA GUPTA and COREY STOUGHTON
APRIL 5, 2017
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered a review of federal agreements with a number of local law enforcement agencies aimed at reforming troubled departments. As a first step, the Justice Department on Monday asked a judge to delay a consent decree that would overhaul Baltimore’s police force.

On its face, Mr. Sessions’s order simply asks whether the consent decrees promote public safety, support officers, respect local control and are warranted. But underlying the order is the Trump administration’s belief that efforts to align police practices with the Constitution have compromised public safety and thrown police officers under the bus.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Countless police chiefs and mayors are vocal about wanting federal reform or have emerged from the consent decree process remarking that their departments were the better for it. Mr. Sessions claims to want to revert to local control, but he should listen to local officials like Baltimore’s police commissioner, Kevin Davis, who called the Justice Department’s request to delay the reform agreement “a punch in the gut” and noted that “a consent decree will make the Baltimore police department better both with the crime fight and our community relationships.”

No matter what review Mr. Sessions conducts, he cannot unilaterally undo these reform agreements. That’s because the district courts that oversee them will ultimately decide their fate. In addition, the reforms are negotiated with local elected officials and law enforcement leaders, with extensive input from grass-roots organizations, police unions, officers and civilians. Mr. Sessions can try to undermine them, but many of the reforms are durable.

That’s good, because communities around the country need this work to continue. In cities like Ferguson, Mo., Chicago and Baltimore, federal reform addresses unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, and excessive and retaliatory force. These problems erode trust between police departments and the communities they serve, trust that is essential to effective policing as well as officer and public safety.
Rebuilding these ties is also necessary for preventing and solving crime. Few in law enforcement would disagree with this. When we worked on police reform at the Justice Department, we heard over and over again from officers and community members during our investigations in Baltimore and Chicago that relationships had broken down so badly, witnesses sometimes refused to share vital information and victims declined police assistance.

Mr. Sessions’s suggestion that the Justice Department’s policing agreements interfere with proactive policing is likewise baseless. There is no question that lawful stops, arrests and, at times, the use of force are all necessary tools for ensuring public safety. But Baltimore’s misguided zero-tolerance policing strategy, for example, severely damaged police-community relations, especially in black neighborhoods. Even the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police acknowledged that officers felt “pressure to achieve numbers for perception’s sake.”

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And, Seattle’s recent experience shows that Federal intervention and consent decrees improve policing and saves lives, as shown by this report in the Seattle Times:

“Five years after the U.S. Justice Department found Seattle police officers too often resorted to excessive force, the federal monitor overseeing court-ordered reforms issued a glowing report Thursday concluding the department has carried out a dramatic turnaround.

Crediting Mayor Ed Murray, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and, most of all, the Seattle Police Department’s men and women, the monitor, Merrick Bobb, found overall use of force is down and, when officers do use it, it is largely handled in a reasonable way consistent with department policies.
As a result, Bobb found the department to be in substantial compliance — formally known as initial compliance — with core provisions of a 2012 consent decree that required the city to adopt new policies and training to address excessive force.
“The significance and importance of this finding cannot be understated, as this report makes clear,” Bobb wrote in the 102-page assessment. “It represents a singular and foundational milestone on SPD’s road to full and effective compliance — and represents Seattle crystallizing into a model of policing for the 21st century.”

Moreover, use of force has dropped even as officer injuries have not gone up and crime, by most measures, has not increased, Bobb and his monitoring team write in the report.

O’Toole shared the results in a departmentwide email Monday afternoon, saying, “In short, the Monitor’s assessment confirms the data that SPD reported on earlier this year: of the hundreds of thousands of unique incidents to which SPD officers respond every year, only a small fraction of one percent result in any use of force.”

The report, which has been in the works for some time, comes days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to conduct a review of reform agreements with more than a dozen police agencies nationwide to determine whether they, among other things, undermine officer safety and crime fighting.

While the order could undercut newer agreements reached under the civil-rights emphasis during the Obama administration, officials have said it is unlikely to affect Seattle’s pact because it is under the firm control of a federal judge.

The judge, James Robart, has shown an unwavering commitment to Seattle’s consent decree, even declaring “black lives matter” during a court hearing, and earlier this year halted the Trump administration’s first travel ban.
In a statement Tuesday, Murray said, “Our progress under the Consent Decree cannot be undone by empty bureaucratic threats. Our police department is well into the process of reform and will continue this work. We are too far along for President Trump to pull us away from justice.”

Read the complete article here: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/in-major-step-federal-monitor-finds-seattle-police-use-of-force-reforms-are-working/?utm_source=The+Seattle+Times&utm_campaign=fe0fd2fdf6-Alert_Dramatic_turnaround_in_Seattle_PD’s_use_of_f&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5beb38b61e-fe0fd2fdf6-122767877

 

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Must be hard for current and former DOJ Civil Rights Division attorneys, who have spent years painstakingly investigating, drafting, and negotiating agreements to promote effective, constitutional policing to see their work being trashed by a guy who has spent most of his career trying to limit civil and human rights. Been there myself, in a somewhat different context, and it’s very disheartening and maddening.

While I don’t have much optimism that career attorneys in the DOJ will be able to stand up to Sessions and keep their jobs, it is encouraging that many of the jurisdictions, police departments, and Federal Judges involved in the consent decree process intend to keep the ball rolling despite Session’s attempts to undermine their efforts.

And, certainly advocates, like Gupta and Stoughton in their new “private sector” positions, intend to keep the pressure on even if it means doing battle with the Trumped-up Sessions version of the DOJ. Forget civil rights, gotta keep a close eye on what those H-1B workers and their employers are up to.

PWS

04-06-17

 

 

WashPost EDITORIAL: “Sessions’s plans are anti-police and anti-community” — Surprising? Hardly! — Is There Any Part Of Social Justice In America That Jeff Sessions Hasn’t Been “Anti-” ?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/sessionss-plans-are-anti-police-and-anti-community/2017/04/04/48871ca8-196e-11e7-855e-4824bbb5d748_story.html?utm_term=.ac719356d27a

“AFTER A Post investigation revealed that D.C. police had fatally shot more people per capita in the 1990s than officers in any other large municipal police department in the country, the U.S. Justice Department got involved, forging an agreement in 2001 that required the District to undertake certain reforms. Across the border in neighboring Maryland, the Prince George’s County Police Department was subject to federal court decrees after investigations revealed excessive police force and abuses in the use of police dogs. The result, both departments agree, was better training, modernized equipment and improved policies that have helped build community trust. Crime didn’t go up; it decreased.

We bring up the experiences of these two departments in light of the plans announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to review agreements reached by the Obama administration with a dozen or so troubled police departments as part of its mission “to ensure public safety.” Embedded in this unprecedented review is the notion that trying to correct patterns of police misconduct is somehow at odds with public safety. There is nothing incompatible between good policing and respecting people’s civil rights, nor between respecting people’s civil rights and respecting the difficult work good police officers do. It is troubling that the Trump administration seems willing — even eager — to abandon the government’s role in ensuring that all interests are protected.

A March 31 memorandum from Mr. Sessions made public Monday directs his top staff to review reform agreements reached with police departments that were found to have routinely violated the civil rights of individuals. Minorities, notably African Americans, are most often singled out for unfair and abusive treatment, ranging from frivolous stops and arrests to use of excessive and deadly force. While it may be hard for the Justice Department to undo agreements authorized by courts and with independent monitors in place, reforms are at risk in cities where a judge has yet to approve a decree (Baltimore) or where negotiations are still underway (Chicago).”

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PWS

04/05/17