In it, but not of it. TPM DC
Figures recalled one occasion in which the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division sent them instructions to investigate a case that Sessions had tried to close: "We had a very spirited discussion regarding how the Hodge case should then be handled; in the course of that argument, Mr. Sessions threw the file on a table, and remarked, 'I wish I could decline on all of them.'"
All of them, according to Figures, meant civil rights cases generally. As he explained at one point: "[T]he statement, the manner in which it was delivered, the impression on his face, the manner in which his face blushed, I believe it represented a hostility to investigating and pursuing those types of matters."
Figures said that Sessions had called him "boy" on a number of occasions, and had cautioned him to be careful what he said to "white folks. "Mr. Sessions admonished me to 'be careful what you say to white folks,'" Figures testified. "Had Mr. Sessions merely urged me to be careful what I said to 'folks,' that admonition would have been quite reasonable. But that was not the language that he used."
In response to these allegations, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) asked him if he'd ever objected to this behavior. Senator "Did you ever say anything to them? Did you ever say, knock it off, or quit it?"
Figures admitted he hadn't: "Senator, I felt that if I had said anything or reacted in a manner in which I thought appropriate, I would be fired. I always felt that my position was very tentative around Mr. Sessions."
At one point during his testimony, Figures paid Sessions a backhanded compliment on his overall professionalism. "In all fairness to Mr. Sessions, however, I should make clear that the problems which existed in the area of civil rights were not present in other aspects of my case assignments," said Figures. "Except in criminal civil rights cases, Mr. Sessions deferred to my recommendations regarding whether to pursue cases, and never withdrew a case assignment because he disagreed with my recommendation."
Thomas Figures still practices law in Mobile, Alabama, but could not be reached by phone this afternoon. We'll keep perusing the testimony and report any other noteworthy details.