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February 8, 2017

Jeff Sessions confirmed as Attorney General ... now what for federal sentencing policies and practices?

Jeff_Sessions_official_portraitAs Fox News reports here, "Sen. Jeff Sessions won confirmation Wednesday evening to become the next attorney general of the United States," and here's more of the basic backstory:

The Senate narrowly approved the Alabama Republican’s nomination on a 52-47 vote, the latest in a series of confirmation votes that have been dragged out amid Democratic protests. One Democrat, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined Republicans in voting to confirm Sessions. Sessions himself voted present.

In his farewell address Wednesday evening, Sessions urged his erstwhile colleagues to get along better following days of bruising debate. "We need latitude in our relationships," Sessions said. "Denigrating people who disagree with us is not a healthy trend for our body."...

Wednesday’s vote came after a rowdy overnight session during which Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was formally chastised for allegedly impugning Sessions’ integrity on the floor. Warren had read a letter authored in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, who was against Sessions’ nomination at the time to the federal bench, arguing he used the power of his office to “chill” black voting rights. Warren also quoted the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who originally had entered King’s letter into the record, describing Sessions as “disgraceful.”

GOP Senate leaders said Warren had violated Senate rules and should lose her speaking privileges. In a remarkable scene, the Senate then voted 49-43 to suspend Warren’s speaking privileges for the rest of the nomination process – the first time the Senate has imposed such a punishment in decades.

Democrats had repeatedly contended that Sessions is too close to Trump, too harsh on immigrants, and weak on civil rights for minorities, immigrants, gay people and women. Sessions was a prominent early backer of Trump, a supporter of his hard line on illegal immigration and joined Trump's advocacy of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border....

Republicans argued Sessions has demonstrated over a long career in public service, including two decades in the Senate, that he possesses integrity, honesty, and is committed to justice and the rule of law.

Everyone interested in federal sentencing law, policy and reform as well as all federal sentencing practitioners now must wonder what exactly an Attorney General Sessions will mean for federal sentencing policies and practices emerging from the U.S. Department of Justice.  (Over at Marijuana Law, Policy and Reform, I made the same point with respect to federal marijuana policies.)  

I am expecting and somewhat fearing the possibility that AG Sessions will be eager, though new memoranda to US Attorneys, to ramp up application of mandatory minimums in a variety of settings.  AG Sessions can formally and informally push for "tough and tougher" sentencing policies in lots of other ways as well, and it will be interesting to see whether and how he does in the weeks and months ahead. 

February 8, 2017 at 11:04 PM | Permalink


"GOP Senate leaders said Warren had violated Senate rules and should lose her speaking privileges. In a remarkable scene, the Senate then voted 49-43 to suspend Warren’s speaking privileges for the rest of the nomination process – the first time the Senate has imposed such a punishment in decades."

Whatever your politics, the Republican's suspension of Warrent's speaking privileges for the nomination process does not bode well.

Posted by: anon | Feb 9, 2017 9:21:46 AM

anon, give us a break. Dems have acted like spoiled children over Trump's nominations. With respect to Sessions, they have acted disgracefully, and Warren got what was coming to her. Dems were cool with Eric "Marc Rich" Holder, and GOP opposition was generally within historical norms. Dems now are breaking with the traditions of letting a new prez get his cabinet together. They deserve all the calumny they get.

Query to all the 'rats and libs out there--if Eric Holder was qualified to be AG, with his terrorist pardoning efforts, his efforts in securing a pardon for a connected 1%er and subsequent lack of candor with Congress about it and his questionable views on race (which played out), then what possibly can be disqualifying about Sessions--his desire to enforce the law against illegals?

Posted by: federalist | Feb 9, 2017 9:48:36 AM

"...what possibly can be disqualifying about Sessions..."

1) Passed 1L, and is a mental cripple. Less sense than students in Life Skills Class;

2) dedicated drug warrior;

3) Washington insider, rent seeking worthless government worker.

He got this job solely by being a rare, early political supporter of Donald Trump.

Posted by: David Behar | Feb 9, 2017 9:59:05 AM

Re. Warren, the question I ask is not how often that rule has been invoked but rather how often has it not been invoked where it would apply?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Feb 9, 2017 11:06:43 AM

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sessions was replaced by Luther Strange:


Any other news on his views?

Posted by: Joe | Feb 9, 2017 2:52:58 PM

In other news of interest, Chris Cooper -- in part citing his friend's Jeff Sessions treatment during the confirmation process -- took himself out of the running for the Solicitor General position.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 9, 2017 6:25:58 PM

lol ...Chuck Cooper ... Chris Cooper is a local activist.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 9, 2017 6:29:49 PM

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