Feb 13, 2018, 10:16 AM ET

Sessions' reference to 'Anglo-American' legal heritage concerns some groups

#

Attorney General Jeff Sessions sparked controversy Monday after making reference to the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement," a comment interpreted by some critics as racially insensitive.

Interested in Trump Administration?

Add Trump Administration as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Trump Administration news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Add Interest

The remark was made in a speech to the National Sheriffs' Association's winter conference in Washington, D.C., as he thanked those in attendance and outlined the history of their positions in law enforcement.

"I want to thank every sheriff in America. Since our founding, the independently elected sheriff has been the people’s protector, who keeps law enforcement close to, and accountable to, people through the elected process," said Sessions, adding, "The office of sheriff is a critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement.”

The term "Anglo-American law" is frequently used in legal circles as a synonym for "common law" and the term, as well as the role of sheriff in particular, has its roots in English customs and law.

A DOJ official told ABC News Sessions' comments were clearly a reference to the common law legal heritage and not in any way related to race.

In the prepared remarks distributed by the Department of Justice, the line reads: "The Sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage."

PHOTO: Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the National Sheriffs Association Winter Conference on law enforcement efforts to combat the opioid crisis and violent crime, in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2018.Cliff Owen/AP
Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the National Sheriffs' Association Winter Conference on law enforcement efforts to combat the opioid crisis and violent crime, in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12, 2018.

Among those who weighed in on Sessions' speech included Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who called the phrase a "dog whistle" and expressed continued pride in his opposition to the attorney general's nomination last year, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a candidate in the state's 2018 gubernatorial election, who called Sessions an "outright racist."

In 1986, Sessions' nomination for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee after associates testified during his confirmation hearings that the then-U.S. Attorney had made callous comments about the NAACP and Ku Klux Klan. Sessions said at the time that the remarks were not intended to be taken seriously.

The NAACP issued a response to the speech to The Washington Post in which it characterized the comment as "racially tinged," and said it should give "all people reason to worry."

"His decision to link the term Sheriff to some part 'of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement' is an unfortunate yet consistent aspect of the language coming out of the Department of Justice under his tenure," the statement continued, "and in the opinion of the NAACP, qualifies as the latest example of dog whistle politics."

News - Sessions' reference to 'Anglo-American' legal heritage concerns some groups

RRelated Posts

CComments

  • SciFi_Freddie

    If Jeff Sessions is 'racist' for using the term Anglo-American, then Barack Obama is too. He said it in a speech he gave in 2006 in reference to the American legal system; the same way Mr Sessions used it. Only the historically ignorant and grammatically inept can find racism innocuous words and phrases.

  • solvermn

    the "Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement," a comment interpreted by some critics as racially insensitive. " This is offensive ?? We are a nation built on a Judeo-Christian foundation with an Anglo Saxon (British) heritage. The TRUTH is difficult to argue against.

  • prigsby2

    I know of at least one honored constitutional law professor who has no problem with people using the term "anglo-american law".

  • Chris Kemble

    Nazis repeatedly denounced 'Jewish science' in the same way liberals attack any hint of white or European culture. The Left is as knee-jerk racist as Nazis.

  • Henry Miller

    "...a comment interpreted by some critics as racially insensitive."

    Yeah, "critics" who are complete morons.

  • billlls

    I guess NAACP feels kinda stupid for giving him an award. They need to get their stories straight.

  • jburack

    ABC makes itself a total laughingstock by crediting this lunatic charge one iota. Barak Obama spoke on many occasions about "Anglo-American" law. No one in his right mind who knows anything about this nation's legal history has EVER had a problem with the phrase, which has no racial overtones at all. But a society whose schools can remove Huck FInn and To Kill a Mockingbird on grounds of insensitive racial language is a society rapidly on the way to total mental collapse. So I suppose I should not be shocked that ABC is long for the ride.