The last time he came up for Senate confirmation, things did not go well.
On March 20, 1986, Philip Shenon reported at the New York Times:
The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee urged President Reagan today to withdraw a nominee from consideration for a Federal district judgeship in Alabama.
The statement by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware about the nomination of Jefferson B. Sessions 3d, came as one of the nominee's former deputies accused him of making racially insensitive comments to staff members while serving as the United States Attorney in Mobile.
The former deputy, Thomas Figures, who was an assistant United States Attorney for seven years, said in a written statement that Mr. Sessions once admonished him to be careful about what he said ''to white folks.'' Mr. Figures is black.
He confirmed statements disclosed earlier that Mr. Sessions had described the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as ''un-American.''
The comments by Mr. Figures were seen as another serious blow to the nomination of Mr. Sessions, whose appointment to the Federal bench has been oppposed by several large civil rights groups.
The Justice Department said today that it intended to pursue Mr. Sessions's nomination despite the criticism. ''Jeff Sessions is the nominee, and we stand behind him,'' said Terry Eastland, the department's chief spokesman.
In an interview, Senator Biden said that prospects were for the nomination were ''bleak'' and that racial comments purportedly made by Mr. Session had demonstrated that he was unfit for the Federal bench.At The New Republic, Sarah Wildman wrote in 2002:
Senate Democrats tracked down a career Justice Department employee named J. Gerald Hebert, who testified, albeit reluctantly, that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labeled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." Hebert said Sessions had claimed these groups "forced civil rights down the throats of people." In his confirmation hearings, Sessions sealed his own fate by saying such groups could be construed as "un-American" when "they involve themselves in promoting un-American positions" in foreign policy. Hebert testified that the young lawyer tended to "pop off" on such topics regularly, noting that Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a "disgrace to his race" for litigating voting rights cases. Sessions acknowledged making many of the statements attributed to him but claimed that most of the time he had been joking, saying he was sometimes "loose with [his] tongue." He further admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a "piece of intrusive legislation," a phrase he stood behind even in his confirmation hearings.
On June 6, 1986, Lena Williams reported at The New York Times:
The Senate Judiciary Committee today rejected the nomination of Jefferson B. Sessions 3d to be a Federal district judge in Alabama. It was the first time one of President Reagan's judicial nominees was rejected.
The 10-to-8 vote to disapprove Mr. Sessions was followed by a 9-to-9 vote in which the committee refused to send the nomination to the Senate floor with either no recommendation or an unfavorable one, in effect killing the nomination. A majority vote is necessary for an affirmative motion.
The nomination was opposed because of a number of racially insensitive statements Mr. Sessions was accused of making while serving as United States Attorney in Mobile, Ala. The nominee denied making racial statements, but both Democratic and Republican senators had expressed concern over his attitude toward members of minority groups and his prosecution last year of three blacks who were eventually acquitted on charges of voting fraud.