Civil Rights Litigation Down
But that’s not necessarily a good thing.
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.
This decision in particular seems disturbing…
The division has also come under criticism from the courts and some Democrats [sic] for 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.
So what does the other side have to say?
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.
Read the whole thing. Sure, this is probably a combination of both sour grapes and political manuevering, but that Georgia case alone really bothers me, as does the 40% drop in civil rights litigation…especially since it appears that the number of cases hasn’t dropped by the same percentage.