Sessions invokes ‘Anglo-American heritage’ of sheriff’s office

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday brought up sheriffs’ “Anglo-American heritage” during remarks to law enforcement officials in Washington.

“I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to and accountable to people through the elected process,” Sessions said in remarks at the National Sheriffs Association winter meeting, adding, “The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”
“We must never erode this historic office,” Sessions continued.
Invoking “Anglo-American heritage” seems to have been an impromptu decision by the attorney general. A written version of the remarks says that Sessions was supposed to say: “The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage.”
Posted by The NON-Conformist



Jeff Sessions Just Revived a Policy Nobody Supports

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Every day, law enforcement officials across the United States seize cash from motorists stopped at the side of the road. It’s called “civil forfeiture,” and the stories of abuse are legion: over $17,000 seized from the owner of a barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Virginia; over $13,000 seized from a former church deacon in DeKalb County, Georgia; and over $50,000 seized from a Christian rock band in Muskogee County, Oklahoma.

Civil forfeiture allows government to seize property based on the mere suspicion that it is connected to a crime. For instance, the fact that the cops think someone has too much cash is enough to warrant a seizure. After the property is seized, in a complete reversal of the way the American justice system is supposed to work, owners must prove their own innocence to get it back.

Public outrage over the practice has grown as more tales of abuse have been reported. And fortunately, over the last three years, 24 states have passed reforms to protect property owners and curtail civil forfeiture. Less fortunately, on Wednesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new federal policy that threatens to undermine those reforms.

Speaking in a small conference room surrounded by law enforcement officials, Sessions announced the federal government was rolling back a Holder-era policy that had sharply curtailed so-called adoptive seizures. An adoptive seizure occurs when a state police officer seizes property and then transfers it to the federal government, which then forfeits the property under federal law. Importantly, state law enforcement gets to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the forfeiture.

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Why Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Is Unfit to Be Attorney General

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Don’t let his languid Southern drawl or physical resemblance to the kindly Keebler elves fool you. Ever.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, the nation’s 84th attorney general, is neither laid back nor kind. To the contrary, he’s the most dangerous member of the Trump Cabinet. What’s more, he’s entirely unfit for the high position he holds.

Further evidence that Sessions has no business serving as our top law enforcement official emerged last week, when he took an intemperate swipe at Hawaii-based U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Kahala Watson during an interview with ultraconservative radio talk show host Mark Levin. Sessions was livid with Watson—who is one of only two active federal judges of indigenous heritage—for issuing a nationwide injunction blocking enforcement of President Trump’s second Muslim travel ban.

“[T]his is a huge matter,” Sessions said on air. “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.”

Judge Watson clearly had the authority to render his decision. After all, the principle of judicial review—the power of the courts to declare acts of Congress and the executive branch unconstitutional—has been a bedrock tenet of American constitutional law since Marbury v. Madison was decided in 1803.

I don’t fault Sessions for expressing his disappointment with the substance of Watson’s ruling. Lawyers and judges routinely disagree on matters of constitutional interpretation. All things being equal, I’d even give him a pass for apparently forgetting that Hawaii is a state, albeit one consisting of several islands.

But things are rarely, if ever, equal when it comes to Sessions, especially when race, ethnicity or issues of minority rights enter the picture. Would Sessions have been equally dismissive if Judge Watson were white, or if the judge’s order had not benefitted Muslims, who comprise a statistically small but increasingly scapegoated religious community in the U.S.?

Compare Sessions’ comments about Watson with the jubilation he expressed last June when the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 in the case of United States v. Texas regarding the Obama administration’s deferred deportation program for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens (DAPA), and the attempt to expand the DACA program dealing with the deferred deportation of children. The Supreme Court’s tie vote served to uphold the ruling of a single federal district court judge—Andrew S. Hanen, who sits in Brownsville—that struck down both plans.

In a prepared statement released at the time, Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, said: “Today’s decision in United States v. Texas is not just a victory for Texas, Alabama, and a majority of the States in this great nation who challenged the lawless actions of the Obama Administration, but a victory for the American people and for the rule of law.”

Sessions’ racial animus and hypocrisy are nothing new. In Truthdig columns, I previously chronicled his long and sorry history. Among the lowlights of Sessions’ career that I noted were his unsuccessful prosecution of three civil rights workers in 1985 while he served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, and the Senate’s rejection of his 1986 nomination to a federal judgeship over concern about his record of racial bias and insensitivity.

Since his installation as attorney general in early February, Sessions has done nothing to allay those concerns. If anything, he’s driven them to new levels.

On immigration, in addition to defending the Muslim travel ban, he’s been a staunch advocate for Trump’s border wall, and the driving force behind the threatened federal crackdown on sanctuary cities.

As expected, he’s promised to pick up the pace and volume of deportations. On a recent visit to Arizona, he described the border area as “ground zero” in the fight against transnational gangs who “flood our country with drugs and leave death and violence in their wake,” and the “criminal aliens” who “seek to overthrow our system of lawful immigration.” He pledged to marshal all available resources to “take a stand” against “such filth.”

In the field of voting rights, Sessions similarly has left a telltale mark. In late February, he announced that the Justice Department would drop its opposition to Texas’ strict voter identification law. In 2013, the Obama administration joined litigation aimed at overturning the law, which was passed in 2011.

Notwithstanding the department’s change of position, on April 10 a federal judge held that the law unconstitutionally discriminated against black and Latino voters. Sessions is expected to back efforts by Texas to appeal the ruling.

Sessions was also instrumental in revoking the written guidance that Loretta Lynch, his immediate predecessor as attorney general, had given to public schools to refrain from discriminating against transgender students. Given the revocation, the Supreme Court was prompted to vacate a pending appeal involving a transgender Virginia high school student who had been prohibited from using the bathroom of his choice and had argued his school’s policies violated Lynch’s guidelines.

In the area of criminal justice and police reform, Sessions has been even more regressive, calling for a revival of the war on drugs (including marijuana) and a return to the mandatory minimum prison sentences that fueled the era of mass incarceration. He also has been vocally supportive of the private prison industry.

Perhaps most important of all in law enforcement matters, Sessions has pledged to help boost the morale of local police departments by reviewing and annulling consent decrees negotiated with wayward jurisdictions across the country. In a staff memo written earlier this month, Sessions admonished that “it is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage nonfederal law enforcement agencies.” …I think this is arguably the most important position he’s taken in the field, but not the most important in all fields.

Nor does Sessions believe the federal government, via the Environmental Protection Agency, should have much to do with safeguarding clean air and water standards, or with the fight against climate change. Under his supervision, the Justice Department has advised federal courts in several pending high-profile cases that the EPA’s former positions on such questions are under review and subject to change.

And then there is his dismal stance on women’s rights. Although he testified at his confirmation hearing that he respects Roe v. Wade as the “law of the land,” he admitted that he views the landmark abortion precedent as “one of the worst, colossally erroneous Supreme Court decisions of all time.”

In matters of national security, too, Sessions has alarmed civil liberties activists, vowing to put federal whistleblowers in jail for disclosing classified information, “whenever a case can be made.” Late last week, he declared that the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had become a “priority” for the U.S.

Finally, there’s the charge that Sessions lied at his confirmation hearing when he testified that he had no contact with Russian officials during the election campaign while acting in the capacity of a Trump adviser. He since has acknowledged meeting twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign but has insisted he didn’t discuss campaign issues. Nonetheless, he has recused himself from participating in all ongoing federal probes of alleged Russian meddling in the election.

But let’s not dwell on the past. The real menace Sessions poses to the body politic lies in the future. He’s only been in office for about 80 days, and he’s just getting started.

In the meantime, if you haven’t already concluded that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is unfit to serve as the attorney general of the United States, I have a simple question for you: What, in the name of basic human decency, is holding you back?

By Bill Blum/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Loretta Lynch wins confirmation as attorney general

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Loretta Lynch won confirmation to serve as attorney general Thursday from a Senate that forced her to wait more than five months for the title and remained divided to the end.

The 56-43 vote installs Lynch, now U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, as the first black woman in the nation’s top law enforcement post. She will replace Eric Holder, a perennial lightning rod for conservatives who was once held in contempt of Congress.

The vote total for Lynch was the lowest for any attorney general since Michael Mukasey won confirmation with 53 votes in 2007 after Democrats decried his refusal to describe waterboarding as torture.

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Jeb Bush calls on Republicans to confirm Loretta Lynch

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Jeb Bush says that the Senate should confirm the nomination of Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s choice for attorney general. A number of Senate Republicans oppose her nomination.

“I think presidents have the right to pick their team,” Bush said, according to reports of his stop at the “Politics and Pie” forum in Concord, New Hampshire, on Thursday night.

The former Florida governor made sure to get in a few digs at current Attorney General Eric Holder, saying that Republicans should consider that the longer it takes to confirm Lynch, the longer Holder stays.

A Senate fight over a sex-trafficking bill that includes a controversial abortion provision has held up Lynch’s nomination for 160 days since Obama announced his choice last Nov. 8, but Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is threatening to break protocol and force a vote on the Senate floor.

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Loretta Lynch To Appear Before Senate Judiciary Committee

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Image: CBS New York

Under pressure from Republicans, Loretta Lynch promised a fresh relationship with law enforcement and with Congress on Wednesday at confirmation hearings to become the nation’s first female black attorney general.

“I pledge to all of you and to the American people that I will fulfill my responsibilities with integrity and independence,” she said in remarks prepared for the panel, led by Republicans who say Attorney General Eric Holder has been too willing to follow President Barack Obama’s political agenda.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who chairs the committee, said as much in the opening moments of the hearing, the Senate’s first confirmation proceedings since the GOP took control this month.

He said the department is “deeply politicized.” But that’s what happens when the attorney general of the United States views himself, in his own words, as the president’s “wingman.”

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US considers relaxing prison sentences for lesser drug offences

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Shorter prison sentences for less serious drug trafficking offenses could dramatically cut US federal prison spending and herald the beginning of a new justice system under a new proposal being endorsed by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Image: AP

The proposal was set to be advocated by Holder on Thursday, when he appears before the US Sentencing Commission, which guides federal judges’ decisions.

American “overreliance on incarceration is not just financially unsustainable, it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate,” a pre-released copy of Holder’s testimony was quoted by AP as saying. Only “dangerous and violent drug traffickers” should warrant the kind of harsh punishment currently being doled out, he said.

Holder’s initiative is part of a greater push for the reform of the justice system and has its roots in August 2013, when he first talked to prosecutors about not using mandatory minimum sentences in cases when the drug offense is light and non-violent.

In January, the commission sought to reclassify certain minor offenses to be part of lesser sentencing ranges. The rationale behind this would be to reduce the current average sentence for trafficking by 11 months, as well as shrinking the US prison population by a little over 6,500 over the course of five years. The changes, Holder predicts, would affect over 70 percent of drug trafficking offenders. The overall reduction in sentences would be by as much as 18 percent, according to Justice Department estimates.

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