Sessions’ war on civil rights

Attorney General Jeff SessionsFrom a “zero tolerance” policy that separates migrant children from their families to walking back criminal justice reform, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is slowly undermining progress made in civil rights, according to a story at The Atlantic. After recusing himself from the Russia probe, Sessions has withstood the withering criticism of his boss, President Donald Trump, to enact a number of measures that reverse gains that have been made to ensure justice for all:

But behind the scenes, even as the president has agitated in public about firing his attorney general, Sessions is the true architect of much of what people believe to be Trump’s domestic-policy agenda. As implemented in recent decisions to curtail asylum grants, ramp up immigration enforcement, and dial back criminal-justice reform and voting-rights protections, this agenda is more than just the reversal of policies enacted during the Barack Obama era, which Trump promised during his campaign. Rather, from the Black Belt in Alabama in the 1980s to the farthest reaches of the border fence today, the Sessions Doctrine is the endgame of a long legal tradition of undermining minority civil rights.

Critics say Sessions is “rolling back civil rights progress” and killing reforms in policing, prosecuting and prisons. Author Vann R. Newkirk II says that Sessions’ history as a US attorney and senator from Alabama may explain his determined efforts to undermine decades of progress in civil rights.

Bullet Proof Vest False Claims Act Case Ends in Victory for Whistleblower

police bulletproof vestThe U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Japanese manufacturing company, Toyobo Co., Ltd., agreed to pay $66 million to settle allegations that it conspired to sell defective body armor to American police departments, federal law enforcement agencies and the U.S. military.  The settlement was reached as part of a False Claims Act initiated by a whistleblower, Aaron Westrick, Ph.D.

As required under the False Claims Act, Dr. Westrick will obtain a qui tam whistleblower reward of $5.77 million.  This award is designed to compensate Dr. Westrick for the damages he suffered and to incentivize other whistleblowers with evidence of fraud to report these crimes.

A detailed discussion on the national importance of this case is posted on The Whistleblower Blog.

Dr. Westrick, now employed as a tenured professor at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and an active Michigan Deputy Sherriff, issued the following statement:

“I only wanted to stop the sale of unsafe Zylon vests to police officers, federal agents, and members of our Armed Services. I tried to convince my company to stop selling these vests.  They refused. I lost my job and career.  I have no regrets. I would blow the whistle again. The defective Zylon product was taken off the market and Toyobo (along with other companies) were held accountable. 

“I am proud that the United States joined in my False Claims Act case, and aggressively sought justice in this matter.”

In a statement released today by the DOJ, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “Bulletproof vests are sometimes what stands between a police officer and death. Selling material for these vests that one knows to be defective is dishonest, and risks the lives of the men and women who serve to protect us. The Department of Justice is committed to the protection of our law enforcement officers, and today’s resolution sends another clear message that we will not tolerate those who put our first responders in harm’s way.”

Stephen M. Kohn, a partner in the law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto – who served as Dr. Westrick’s lead counsel said: “Dr. Westrick is a true American hero. He lost his job and career in the body armor industry by exposing Zylon safety risks. He provided the crucial documents and testimony justifying the removal of Zylon from the market, and compensation to states and the federal government due to the immoral sale of Zylon vests.

“The False Claims Act is America’s most important tool to fight fraud in government contracting.  It was enacted to protect and reward whistleblowers like Dr. Westrick, who sacrifice for the public interest, save taxpayers millions of dollars, and ensure that products sold to front-line responders are safe.”

Mr. Kohn also serves as the pro bono Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center.

 

Podcast: How Sessions has affected the Justice Dept. in his 1st year

Attorney General Jeff SessionsAttorney General Jeff Sessions said “a new era of justice has begun” after being sworn in as the nation’s top prosecutor. In the year since, Sessions has managed to transform the Justice Department, especially in the areas of civil rights, immigration and drugs, reports NPR. Carrie Johnson takes a look at Sessions’ first year in office in this podcast.

ACLU calls AG Sessions more dangerous than Trump

Who poses a greater danger to the American justice system, President Donald Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions? The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union says Sessions poses the more significant threat. The ACLU’s David Cole says Sessions is “…particularly retrograde on criminal justice.” Read the complete analysis at the ACLU’s website. Attorney General Jeff Sessions