Sessions’ statements suggest big shift in civil rights enforcement

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Attorney General


Jeff Sessions

Sen. Jeff Sessions.

Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama has criticized the current Justice Department’s approach to civil rights enforcement, indicating a big shift in policy and approach if he is confirmed as attorney general.

The New York Times has a story contrasting current policies with Sessions’ statements.

During the last eight years, the Times reports, the Justice Department has inserted itself into private lawsuits to side with people such as transgender students, juvenile prisoners, homeless people and the blind. It has asserted that federal law requires public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity. It has investigated local police departments and sued cities for alleged unconstitutional police practices.

Sessions, on the other hand, “opposes not only the Justice Department’s specific policies on civil rights but its entire approach,” according to the Times.

Sessions has criticized lawyers and judges who try to move the law in new directions, saying the philosophy “elevates outcomes over law.” It is Congress’ job to make law, he has said, and he was outraged when the administration refused to defend a law banning recognition of gay marriage.

“It was shameful and disgraceful and an abandonment of the rule of law,” Sessions said in 2015. “I’m not happy about what’s happened to my Department of Justice.”

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions also criticized Justice Department lawsuits over police practices, saying the suits hurt morale and change the way people view police. “These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness,” he said.

Sessions also said there was no need for the Justice Department to get involved to prosecute crimes against women or gay people when local prosecutions were under way. “I am not sure women or people with different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination,” Sessions said. “I just don’t see it.”





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