Since leaving the State House corner office, Deval Patrick has largely evaded the limelight of national politics. But the former Massachusetts governor and civil rights lawyer is making his position known on Donald Trump’s divisive pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
In a letter Tuesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick recalled a 1985 voting rights case (recently highlighted by the Washington Post) in which he defended three Alabama residents against what he called “an act of extraordinary quasi-judicial activisim” by Sessions, then the U.S. attorney for the state’s southern district.
Patrick’s team eventually won the case, but, in his letter Tuesday, Patrick called it “a cautionary tale.”
“I believe it demonstrates what can happen when prosecutorial discretion is unchecked, when regard for facts is secondary to political objectives,” he wrote, later adding, “In a republic based on law, this is not the kind of risk any of us should accept in our attorney general.”
Patrick was not the only one to protest Sessions’s fraught record dealing with race.
His letter came the same day as the NAACP staged a sit-in at the Alabaman’s office in Mobile, and as more than 1,100 law school professors from across the country wrote a public letter opposing the Sessions nomination. In 1986, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions’s nomination to be a federal judge over his history of comments on race.
“Donald Trump was not my candidate, but he is my president-elect,” Patrick wrote Tuesday, adding that he would not blindly oppose everything Trump does and believes that presidents are entitled to a cabinet of his choosing “within bounds of basic preparedness and qualifications.”
But Sessions’s nomination was a line too far in a time when the country needs healing, Patrick said.
“At a time when our Nation is so divided, when so many feel so deeply that their lived experience is unjust, Mr. Sessions is the wrong person to place in charge of our justice system,” he wrote.
You can read Patrick’s letter in-full here, as published by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.