Civil Rights Focus Shift Roils Staff At Justice
Veterans Exit Division as Traditional Cases Decline

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005; A01

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, which has enforced the nation's anti-discrimination laws for nearly half a century, is in the midst of an upheaval that has driven away dozens of veteran lawyers and has damaged morale for many of those who remain, according to former and current career employees.

Nearly 20 percent of the division's lawyers left in fiscal 2005, in part because of a buyout program that some lawyers believe was aimed at pushing out those who did not share the administration's conservative views on civil rights laws. Longtime litigators complain that political appointees have cut them out of hiring and major policy decisions, including approvals of controversial GOP redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas.

At the same time, prosecutions for the kinds of racial and gender discrimination crimes traditionally handled by the division have declined 40 percent over the past five years, according to department statistics. Dozens of lawyers find themselves handling appeals of deportation orders and other immigration matters instead of civil rights cases.

The division has also come under criticism from the courts and some Democratsfor its decision in August to approve a Georgia program requiring voters to present government-issued identification cards at the polls. The program was halted by an appellate court panel and a district court judge, who likened it to a poll tax from the Jim Crow era.

"Most everyone in the Civil Rights Division realized that with the change of administration, there would be some cutting back of some cases," said Richard Ugelow, who left the division in 2004 and now teaches law at American University. "But I don't think people anticipated that it would go this far, that enforcement would be cut back to the point that people felt like they were spinning their wheels."

The Justice Department and its supporters strongly dispute the complaints. Justice spokesman Eric Holland noted that the overall attrition rate during the Bush administration, about 13 percent, is not significantly higher than the 11 percent average during the last five years under President Bill Clinton.

Holland also said that the division filed a record number of criminal prosecutions in 2004. A quarter of those cases were related tohuman-trafficking crimes, which were made easier to prosecute under legislation passed at the end of the Clinton administration and which account for a growing proportion of the division's caseload.

In addition, Holland defended the department's decision to approve the Georgia voter law, saying that "career and political attorneys together concluded" that the measure would have no negative effect on minorities.

"This administration has continued the robust and vigorous enforcement of civil rights laws," Holland wrote in an e-mail statement, adding later: "These accomplishments could not have been achieved without teamwork between career attorneys and political appointees."

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the first Hispanic to hold the job, named civil rights enforcement as one of his priorities after taking office earlier this year and supports reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act.

Although relations between the career and political ranks have been strained throughout the Justice Department over the past five years, the level of conflict has been particularly high in civil rights, according to current and former staffers. The debate over civil rights flared in the Senate in recent weeks after the nomination of Wan J. Kim, who was confirmed on Nov. 4 as the assistant attorney general for the division and is the third person to hold that job during the Bush administration. Kim has been the civil rights deputy for the past two years.

There were no serious objections to Kim's nomination, but Democrats including Sens. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) and Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) said they were concerned about serious problems with morale and enforcement within the division.

"Its enforcement of civil rights over the past five years has been negligent," Kennedy said in a statement. "Mr. Kim has promised to look closely at these issues and to increase the division's enforcement, and I believed he should be given a chance to turn the division around."

Critics point to several key statistics in arguing that Gonzales and the previous attorney general, John D. Ashcroft, have charted a dramatically different course for civil rights enforcement than previous administrations of both parties.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which includes a number of former Justice lawyers, noted in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the division has filed only a handful of cases in recent years dealing with employment discrimination or discrimination based on the statistical impact on women or minority groups.

The total number of criminal prosecutions is within the range of the Clinton administration, but a growing percentage of those cases involve prosecuting human smugglers, which have become a priority for the division only in recent years. Other types of civil rights prosecutions are down, from 83 in fiscal 2001 to 49 in 2005.

The Bush administration has filed only three lawsuits -- all of them this year -- under the section of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits discrimination against minority voters, and none of them involves discrimination against blacks. The initial case was the Justice Department's first reverse-discrimination lawsuit, accusing a majority-black county in Mississippi of discriminating against white voters.

The change in emphasis is perhaps most stark in the division's appellate section, which has historically played a prominent role intervening in key discrimination cases. The section filed only three friend-of-the-court briefs last year -- compared with 22 in 1999 -- and now spends nearly half its time defendingdeportation orders rather than pursuing civil rights litigation. Last year, six of 10 briefs filed by the section were related to immigration cases.

William R. Yeomans, a 24-year division veteran who took a buyout offer earlier this year, wrote in an essay in Legal Affairs magazine that "morale among career attorneys has plummeted, the division's productivity has suffered and the pace of civil rights enforcement has slowed."

In an interview, Yeomans said some of the problems stem from the way the "front office" at Justice has treated career employees, many of whom have been forced to move to other divisions or to handle cases unconnected to civil rights. As an example of the strained relations, Yeomans points to the recent retirement party held for a widely admired 37-year veteran: Not one political appointee showed up.

At the same time, Ashcroft implemented procedures throughout Justice that limited the input of career lawyers in employment decisions, resulting in the hiring of many young conservatives in civil rights and elsewhere in the department, former and current lawyers have said.

"The more slots you open, the more you can populate them with people you like," said Stephen B. Pershing, who left the division in May and is now senior counsel at the Center for Constitutional Litigation, a Washington law firm that handles civil rights cases. "It's pretty simple really."

To Roger Clegg, the situation is also perfectly understandable. A former civil rights deputy in the Reagan administration who is now general counsel at the Center for Equal Opportunity, Clegg said the civil rights area tends to attract activist liberal lawyers who are philosophically opposed to a more conservative approach.

"If the career people are not reflecting the policy priorities of the political appointees, then there's a problem," Clegg said. "Elections have consequences in a democracy."

Holland, the Justice spokesman, said critics are selectively citing statistics. For example, he said, the department is on the winning side of court rulings 90 percent of the time compared with 60 percent during the Clinton years. Federal courts are "less likely to reject our legal arguments than the ones filed in the previous administration," he said.

Ralph F. Boyd Jr., the civil rights chief from 2001 to 2003, agreed: "It's not a prosecutor's job to bring lots of cases; it's a prosecutor's job to bring the right cases. If it means fewer cases overall, then that's what you do."

© MBM

Original Post
Quote
Ralph F. Boyd Jr., the civil rights chief from 2001 to 2003, agreed: "It's not a prosecutor's job to bring lots of cases; it's a prosecutor's job to bring the right cases. If it means fewer cases overall, then that's what you do."

So apparently less is more??

I really don't like lawyers (for the most part) but it strikes me as strange (if not sabotage) to have conservative lawyers being hired to represent civil rights cases.

Yes, I have pegged myself as a center leaning conservative however I believe there is a place for everything and everyone. Conservative and civil rights....is a bit much
And the Congressional Black Caucus is smoozing along asking 'massa' for a simple extension keeping in place temporary protection.

Thus exhibiting a severe case of The DeGruy-Leary Effect.

PEACE

Jim Chester
Every department in DC' needs reform.

But if Civil rights cases are the ones that need attention, then then attention should be placed on them.

Croneism is one thing. Picking a case based on skin color is another. There is enough funds to cover Civil rights cases. They should be looked at.

'WE must realize that our future lies chiefly in our own.">>>Paul Robeson
Civil Rights regulators like Social workers are driven by SELF PRESERVATION.

Their similar goal is to NEVER allow their "victims" to be healed lest they be out of a job. They are not compensated favorably for a reduction in their workload due to successful resolution or a change in the climate that necessitated their efforts.
quote:
Civil Rights regulators like Social workers are driven by SELF PRESERVATION.
By CF

You are wrong on both counts. Generally, Civil Rights "Regulators" are driven by a desire to seek justice; whereas, Social workers are driven by compassion.
quote:
Civil Rights regulators like Social workers are driven by SELF PRESERVATION.
By CF

You are wrong on both counts. Generally, Civil Rights "Regulators" are driven by a desire to seek justice; whereas, Social workers are driven by compassion.[/QUOTE]

OK BUDDY. If you say so.

Please visit the social workers during their lunch breaks within their county offices. You will hear all of the "compassion" oozing out of them as they clip their lunch hour and rush back to their desks to HELP people.

I do agree though that a social worker has a thankless job. With all of the recent stories of how some kids have slipped through the cracks and the social workers are being held criminally accountable for not noticing the deeds of others I do wonder why someone would agree to take this job though. They need support in their efforts.
Originally posted by Constructive Feedback:

Social workers are driven by SELF PRESERVATION ...

OK BUDDY. If you say so. ...

Please visit the social workers during their lunch breaks within their county offices. You will hear all of the "compassion" oozing out of them as they clip their lunch hour and rush back to their desks to HELP people. ...

I do agree though that a social worker has a thankless job. ...

I do wonder why someone would agree to take this job though. They need support in their efforts


Do you even take the time to think about what you're about to write before you write it? Or do you just vomit on the page?
Can you tell me how Social workers somehow inject their personal CARE AND COMPASSION in to their jobs when I noted as a government employee for nearly 5 years that it is a challenge to get many government workers to get into their less challenging job?

It seem to me that just like a sex industry worker and a police man - a social work has to become NUMB to what they see everyday or they'll go crazy.

THIS is a message that was CAREFULLY CRAFTED based on my first hand experience and not JUST THROWN UP ONTO THE WEB SITE.
quote:
Originally posted by Constructive Feedback:
Can you tell me how Social workers somehow inject their personal CARE AND COMPASSION in to their jobs when I noted as a government employee for nearly 5 years that it is a challenge to get many government workers to get into their less challenging job?

It seem to me that just like a sex industry worker and a police man - a social work has to become NUMB to what they see everyday or they'll go crazy.

THIS is a message that was CAREFULLY CRAFTED based on my first hand experience and not JUST THROWN UP ONTO THE WEB SITE.


Let's see ... your personal experience of 5 years working in government, in communications was it? But at any rate, working in something other than social work qualifies you to say what about the commitment, caring and compassion of social workers?

On the other hand, having worked in the field I can say that working with folks to help them get their lives in order shows a great deal of caring and compassion.
It was in Information Technology that I worked. This had me to work with MANY OTHER departments. Since that time I have been a telecom consultant to many entities INCLUDING government agencies.

This first hand experience coupled with the problems that have been noted over the past decade or more with children being killed or abused for an extended period of time all while under the watchful eye of the social worker that was assigned to protect him leads me to believe that WHILE THERE ARE A GOOD NUMBER OF WORKERS WHO ARE AS YOU SAY (maybe even the majority of them) IT IS ALSO THE CASE THAT THERE ARE SOME WHO DON'T CARE ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS LET ALONE THEIR JOB and thus they allow these incidents to happen.

With that said the primary failure is with the PARENTS of these children and the adult who is doing the abuse or neglect and should know better. These government agents will never take the place of a loving and caring home in the context of a healthy community.
quote:
Originally posted by Kweli4Real:
quote:
Originally posted by Constructive Feedback:
Can you tell me how Social workers somehow inject their personal CARE AND COMPASSION in to their jobs when I noted as a government employee for nearly 5 years that it is a challenge to get many government workers to get into their less challenging job?

It seem to me that just like a sex industry worker and a police man - a social work has to become NUMB to what they see everyday or they'll go crazy.

THIS is a message that was CAREFULLY CRAFTED based on my first hand experience and not JUST THROWN UP ONTO THE WEB SITE.


Let's see ... your personal experience of 5 years working in government, in communications was it? But at any rate, working in something other than social work qualifies you to say what about the commitment, caring and compassion of social workers?

On the other hand, having worked in the field I can say that working with folks to help them get their lives in order shows a great deal of caring and compassion.



Bro....I have social workers who were classmates of mine who will bring a tear to your eye with the passion they approach their jobs with.....and serve as valuable resources in terms of providing knowledge about resources available.....i'm in Texas now...and I am getting help on a grant for construction on my 99 year old grandmother's house...according to some.....we're just niggers who lack compassion, progressive thought, academic prowess and social functionality...the cold part about it....is that house niggs who hate blacks continue to hang around....if I resented black people the way some do and saw our race in such a disparaging light and defended white folks....I would go ahead about my business to my beloved white folks and tell the darkies to stick AA.org up their azzes...i wouldn't play the sad azz game of coming in here and talking to black people like they are dumb fucks.....as a way to try and normalize my preference for white folks in my own head.....I would just tell ya'l I prefer them and not give a f-k what none of ya'll think...but I guess that is th differnce between having balls and being a unich(spelling?)......
So again, help me to understand ... What does working a help-desk, installing computer hardware and software, and recommending phone systems have to do with first hand experience in social work?

Your response reminds me of the commercial where the guy is about to perform some tricky medical procedure, but when asked about his creditials he says something like, "I have none; but last night I stayed at a Holiday Inn [or whatever the chain was]."

Your observations are NOT first-hand experience, nor does your interpretation of what someone most be going through serve to qualify you to speak.

Further, what does

quote:
This first hand experience coupled with the problems that have been noted over the past decade or more with children being killed or abused for an extended period of time all while under the watchful eye of the social worker that was assigned to protect him leads me to believe that WHILE THERE ARE A GOOD NUMBER OF WORKERS WHO ARE AS YOU SAY (maybe even the majority of them) IT IS ALSO THE CASE THAT THERE ARE SOME WHO DON'T CARE ABOUT THEIR CLIENTS LET ALONE THEIR JOB and thus they allow these incidents to happen ...



Have to do with ...

quote:
Civil Rights regulators like Social workers are driven by SELF PRESERVATION.


Again, This response makes me question whether you think about what you write before you write it, other than maybe to exploit an opportunity to rile against Government/Liberals/Democrats/Black People - Hell you fill in the blank.
Whites Voters Claim Discrimination, Invoke Voting Rights Act
Compiled by the DiversityInc staff
© 2005 DiversityInc.com®
November 15, 2005


Probably few Americans could imagine white citizens claiming voter discrimination during the civil-rights struggle in the 1960s. But in one rural Mississippi town, the U.S. Justice Department is turning to the 1965 Voting Rights Act to defend the rights of white voters.



A Justice Department suit accuses black election officials in Noxubee County of "recent and relentless voting-related racial discrimination," according to a story on NPR. The department notes it is the first time it is using the Voting Rights Act on behalf of white voters.



Justice Department officials are focusing attention on Ike Brown, a black man who chairs the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee. The suit "alleges Brown selectively enforces absentee ballot laws to reject those ballots from white voters...tries to prevent whites from participating in Democratic primary elections and faults him for criticizing blacks who support white candidates."



Brown dismissed the suit and said that it is really about Republican fears of black Democrats mobilizing as voters.



"We're so successful in getting people to vote. For instance when I became chairman, we had a 2,500, 2,600, 2,700 Democratic vote," Brown said. "In the last election, the number was up to 4,300. And that's what they are afraid of."



Many of those votes came from absentee ballots; critics charge Brown's knowledge of when ballots go out and having his workers help people vote when ballots are released is illegal and racially discriminatory.



In one case cited by Justice Department officials, Brown brought in a black attorney from another county to run for county attorney. He rented the man an apartment, but a judge disqualified his candidacy when he learned the apartment had no electricity and furniture and that the man never lived there. According to Justice Department officials, Brown broke the law. But Brown said he was practicing his right to free speech.



There have been mixed reviews from civil-rights leaders, who applaud and denounce the Justice Department's actions. Derrick Johnson, state president of the Mississippi NAACP, said he finds it curious that federal officials would take such an interest in this case, while ignoring many complaints about black voter discrimination over the years.



"I thought it was outrageous," Johnson said of the case.
Is this yet another example of CF shitting on government workers while trying to distinguish himself (a former government worker) as smelling sweet as a rose?
giveup
Politics Alleged In Voting Cases
Justice Officials Are Accused of Influence

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 23, 2006; A01



The Justice Department's voting section, a small and usually obscure unit that enforces the Voting Rights Act and other federal election laws, has been thrust into the center of a growing debate over recent departures and controversial decisions in the Civil Rights Division as a whole.

Many current and former lawyers in the section charge that senior officials have exerted undue political influence in many of the sensitive voting-rights cases the unit handles. Most of the department's major voting-related actions over the past five years have been beneficial to the GOP, they say, including two in Georgia, one in Mississippi and a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) in 2003.

The section also has lost about a third of its three dozen lawyers over the past nine months. Those who remain have been barred from offering recommendations in major voting-rights cases and have little input in the section's decisions on hiring and policy.

"If the Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division is viewed as political, there is no doubt that credibility is lost," former voting-section chief Joe Rich said at a recent panel discussion in Washington. He added: "The voting section is always subject to political pressure and tension. But I never thought it would come to this."

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and his aides dispute such criticism and defend the department's actions in voting cases. "We're not going to politicize decisions within the department," he told reporters last month after The Washington Post had disclosed staff memoranda recommending objections to a Georgia voter-identification plan and to the Texas redistricting.

The 2005 Georgia case has been particularly controversial within the section. Staff members complain that higher-ranking Justice officials ignored serious problems with data supplied by the state in approving the plan, which would have required voters to carry photo identification.

Georgia provided Justice with information on Aug. 26 suggesting that tens of thousands of voters may not have driver's licenses or other identification required to vote, according to officials and records. That added to the concerns of a team of voting-section employees who had concluded that the Georgia plan would hurt black voters.

But higher-ranking officials disagreed, and approved the plan later that day. They said that as many as 200,000 of those without ID cards were felons and illegal immigrants and that they would not be eligible to vote anyway.

One of the officials involved in the decision was Hans von Spakovsky, a former head of the Fulton County GOP in Atlanta, who had long advocated a voter-identification law for the state and oversaw many voting issues at Justice. Justice spokesman Eric W. Holland said von Spakovsky's previous activities did not require a recusal and had no impact on his actions in the Georgia case.

Holland denied a request to interview von Spakovsky, saying that department policy "does not authorize the media to conduct interviews with staff attorneys." Von Spakovsky has since been named to the Federal Election Commission in a recess appointment by President Bush.

In written answers to questions from The Post, Holland called allegations of partisanship in the voting section "categorically untrue." He said the Bush administration has approved the vast majority of the approximately 3,000 redistricting plans it has reviewed, including many drawn up by Democrats.

Holland and other Justice officials also emphasize the Bush administration's aggressive enforcement of laws requiring foreign-language ballot information in districts where minorities make up a significant portion of the population. Since 2001, the division has filed 14 lawsuits to provide comprehensive language programs for minorities, including the first aimed at Filipino and Vietnamese voters, he said.

"We have undertaken the most vigorous enforcement of the language minority provisions of the Voting Rights Act in its history," Holland said.

Some lawyers who have recently left the Civil Rights Division, such as Rich at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and William Yeomans at the American Constitution Society, have taken the unusual step of publicly criticizing the way voting matters have been handled. Other former and current employees have discussed the controversy on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

These critics say that the total number of redistricting cases approved under Bush means little because the section has always cleared the vast majority of the hundreds of plans it reviews every year.

The Bush administration has also initiated relatively few cases under Section 2, the main anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act, filing seven lawsuits over the past five years -- including the department's first reverse-discrimination complaint on behalf of white voters. The only case involving black voters was begun under the previous administration and formally filed by transitional leadership in early 2001.

By comparison, department records show, 14 Section 2 lawsuits were filed during the last two years of Bill Clinton's presidency alone.

Conflicts in the voting-rights arena at Justice are not new, particularly during Republican administrations, when liberal-leaning career lawyers often clash with more conservative political appointees, experts say. The conflicts have been further exacerbated by recent court rulings that have made it more difficult for Justice to challenge redistricting plans.

William Bradford Reynolds, the civil rights chief during the Reagan administration, opposed affirmative-action remedies and court-ordered busing -- and regularly battled with career lawyers in the division as a result. During the administration of George H.W. Bush, the division aggressively pushed for the creation of districts that were more than 60 percent black in a strategy designed to produce more solidly white and Republican districts in the South.

These districts were widely credited with boosting the GOP in the region during the 1994 elections.

Rich, who worked in the Civil Rights Division for 37 years, said the conflicts in the current administration are more severe than in earlier years. "I was there in the Reagan years, and this is worse," he said.

But Michael A. Carvin, a civil rights deputy under Reagan, said such allegations amount to "revisionist history." He contended that the voting section has long tilted to the left politically.

Carvin and other conservatives also say the opinions of career lawyers in the section frequently have been at odds with the courts, including a special panel in Texas that rejected challenges to the Republican-sponsored redistricting plan there. The Supreme Court has since agreed to hear the case.

"The notion that they are somehow neutral or somehow ideologically impartial is simply not supported by the evidence," Carvin said. "It hasn't been the politicos that were departing from the law or normal practice, but the voting-rights section."

In Mississippi in 2002, Justice political appointees rejected a recommendation from career lawyers to approve a redistricting plan favorable to Democrats. While Justice delayed issuing a final decision, a panel of three GOP federal judges approved a plan favorable to a Republican congressman.

The division has also issued unusually detailed legal opinions favoring Republicans in at least two states, contrary to what former staff members describe as a dictum to avoid unnecessary involvement in partisan disputes. The practice ended up embarrassing the department in Arizona in 2005, when Justice officials had to rescind a letter that wrongly endorsed the legality of a GOP bill limiting provisional ballots.

In Georgia, a federal judge eventually ruled against the voter identification plan on constitutional grounds, likening it to a poll tax from the Jim Crow era. The measure would have required voters to pay $20 for a special card if they did not have photo identification; Georgia Republicans are pushing ahead this year with a bill that does not charge a fee for the card.

Holland called the data in the case "very straightforward," and said it showed statistically that 100 percent of Georgians had identification and that no racial disparities were evident.

But an Aug. 25 staff memo that recommended opposing the plan disparaged the quality of the state's information and said that only limited conclusions could be drawn from it.

"They took all that data and willfully misread it," one source familiar with the case said. "They were only looking for statistics that would back up their view."

Mark Posner, a former longtime Civil Rights Division lawyer who teaches election law at American University, noted that Justice could have taken as many as 60 more days -- rather than seven hours -- to issue an opinion because of the new data.

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