As Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is being grilled by his Senate colleagues today in Washington during a confirmation hearing for Attorney General, lawyers in Philadelphia are on the record with serious concerns about his fitness for the office.
In a resolution passed by the 12,000-member association in mid-December, the lawyers wrote that “absent complete and satisfactory explanations from Senator Sessions” on a variety of items they take issue with, “the Philadelphia Bar Association urges all members of the United States Senate to vote against the confirmation of Senator Sessions as United States Attorney General.”
Leaders with the Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest association of lawyers in the country, say they believe they were the first bar association in the country to formally express concerns about Sessions’ nomination.
Sessions, a Republican, was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to serve as attorney general in the president-elect’s inaugural administration. But Sessions has faced serious criticisms, most notably that he was denied a federal judgeship more than 30 years ago (he was only the second in 50 years to be denied by the Senate judiciary committee) for what some saw as racist comments. Sessions had apparently called the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Defense Fund and the National Council of Churches “un-American.”
The Bar Association first took issue with those comments, but also wrote that Sessions has accepted awards from “anti-Muslim” groups, “has taken numerous actions seeking to restrict legal immigration into this country” and “has a track record of failing to protect voting rights.”
Deborah R. Gross, chancellor of the Bar Association, released a statement today saying: “While we respect the bi-partisan nature of our membership, there are bases for serious concern about the potential confirmation of Sen. Sessions as attorney general of the United States.”
The association also wrote that he “has not demonstrated sensitivity to the issue of LGBT rights” and “has opposed criminal justice reform, including bipartisan efforts to reduce sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenses.”
In the resolution, the Association specifically called on Pennsylvania senators Pat Toomey, a Republican, and Bob Casey, a Democrat, “to thoroughly investigate and assess all of the issues listed in this Resolution at the forthcoming Senate hearing.”