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Former Alabama Sen. Jones Eyes Police Reform Role for Arent Fox

May 3, 2021, 9:02 PM

Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones wants his new law firm involved in the Biden administration’s police reform efforts as an independent monitor for law enforcement agencies cited for misconduct by the Justice Department.

“Law enforcement reform presents the country with a really unique opportunity to move forward,” said Jones, who officially joined law firm and lobbying shop Arent Fox in Washington on Monday. “In all likelihood, there are going to be some opportunities for us to get involved implementing consent decrees.”

The Alabama Democrat said he plans to vie for roles monitoring consent decrees between DOJ and police departments, which he expects to be more frequent in the Biden administration. The binding agreements typically require police departments cited for widespread civil rights and other violations to revamp their operations.

The Justice Department recently announced separate investigations of police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville over allegations of excessive use of force. The moves came days after Derek Chauvin, a White Minneapolis police department officer, was convicted of killing George Floyd, an unarmed Black man.

Jones said he is hopeful that the Biden administration and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can reach agreement on police reform legislation. He acknowledged Republican concerns about limiting qualified immunity for police officers is a “sticking point,” but said the legal shield for cops accused of wrongdoing should be reconsidered.

“Qualified immunity has evolved into full immunity,” Jones said. “That’s not the way it was originally set up to be.”

The former federal prosecutor in Alabama was reportedly on a short list for the attorney general post in the Biden administration before the job went to Merrick Garland. He was elected to the Senate in a 2017 contest to replace Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions after Sessions was nominated by President Donald Trump to run the Justice Department. Jones was unseated by former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, a Republican, last year.

Jones is best known in legal circles for leading the prosecution of two Ku Klux Klan members who were convicted for a 1963 Alabama church bombing nearly four decades later. He co-founded a Birmingham law firm before narrowly winning the Senate election.

Cissy Jackson, who was Jones’ counsel and national security advisor in Congress, is also joining Arent Fox.

The firm’s lobbying clients have included American Airlines, Inc., Beacon Capital Partners, and National Grid USA, according to federal records. Jones is prohibited from lobbying Congress for two years, but can lobby the White House and administration.

The pair said they have additionally accepted roles with the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning advocacy group, where they expect to focus on voting rights.

“The access to the ballot box has been increasingly troubling for me,” Jackson said.

Congress’s top goal should be as a “backstop” against state-level efforts to curb voting access, Jones said. He said lawmakers should consider whittling down voting rights bills to focus on core access issues that can attract bipartisan support.

Otherwise, he said Senate Democrat leadership should junk the filibuster rule that prevents them from passing legislation on party lines with a simple majority vote.

“If getting rid of the filibuster is the only way for Congress to be that backstop, then so be it,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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