As the nation prepares to tune in to the notably abridged Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing about President-elect Trump’s Attorney General nominee, Jeff Sessions, lots of media coverage has rehashed Sessions’s blocked nomination to the federal bench in 1986. At that time, Sessions was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. One of the most memorable witnesses from the hearing was Thomas Figures. Figures, “a black assistant US attorney who worked for Sessions, testified that Sessions called him ‘boy’ on multiple occasions . . . .”  Although “Sessions called Figures’ allegation ‘absolutely untrue,’” Figures said “two assistant prosecutors overheard the remark, including Ginny Granade. Granade—now a federal judge in Mobile—said in a statement at the time that she never heard Sessions refer to Figures by anything other than his given name.”

Perhaps the key part to focus on in the preceding excerpt is the “now a federal judge in Mobile” clause. Granade worked as a prosecutor in the Southern District of Alabama for many years, from 1977 to 2002. When her boss at the time, Sessions, came under fire for making racist comments during the Judiciary Committee’s hearings, she stood by him (her affidavit can be found here). Some sixteen years later, Senator Sessions recommended Granade to fill a federal judicial vacancy in the Southern District, singing her praises on the floor. The question that arises now does not deal with Judge Granade’s qualifications or even her long history of working under Sessions’s supervision; it has to do with what Sessions did to hold open the judicial position for her. John Archibald of al.com reported today that Sessions refused to help integrate the Southern District’s bench, shooting down all of President Clinton’s suggested African-American nominees once a seat opened in 1996. One way of understanding the outcome? See the title: that time Jeff Sessions blocked potential African-American judicial nominees and elevated a woman who swore she never heard him call a black man by the term “boy.”

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