Deval Patrick Urges Senate Committee to Reject Jeff Sessions

The former governor and Trump's pick for AG have a history.

Associated Press

Photo via AP

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick penned a three-page letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, President-Elect Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general.

Patrick, who has taken a job at Bain Capital since leaving public office, recalled his days as a civil rights lawyer, when he sparred with Sessions, then a U.S. attorney, in a 1985 voting rights case. Patrick was part of the legal team that defended three African American community activists known as the “Perry County Three.”

“The theory of Mr. Sessions’s case was that it is a federal crime for someone to help someone else to vote or to advise them how they should vote—even if and when they ask for such help,” Patrick wrote to the Judiciary Committee, which Sessions currently sits on.

Pursuing that case was an act of extraordinary quasi-judicial activism. Voting is a civic and even sacred right in our country. Extending it to black voters in the Alabama Black Belt was a significant national challenge. Making access real—through the Voting Rights Act, and countless acts of civil disobedience—represents an equally significant national triumph…To use prosecutorial discretion to attempt to criminalize voter assistance is wrong and should be disqualifying for any aspirant to the Nation’s highest law enforcement post.

Sessions’ appointment follows the first presidential election since the repeal of significant portions of the Voting Rights Act. Fourteen states had new voter ID requirements, which both studies and court rulings have found to disproportionately affect black voters. In the days prior to the November 8 contest, one of Trump’s senior strategists bragged to Businessweek of a “major voter suppression operation” underway targeting the African American vote.

Sessions’ career has been long been dogged by allegations of racism. In 1986, Sessions was rejected for federal judgeship in the Ronald Reagan administration, after his former colleagues testified that he used the word “nigger” and joked that he thought the Ku Klux Klan was ‘‘OK, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.’’

You can read Patrick’s full letter here.