Civil Rights Purge at Justice?

By: Marc H. Morial
President and Chief Executive

National Urban League

Is there a purge of career attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice who do not meet a conservative "litmus test" on civil rights enforcement?

Has the department's Civil Rights Division, a cornerstone of the federal government's protection of the advances in civil rights for the past half-century now turned its back on employment discrimination cases involving women and people of color? Has it also decided to turn away from cases involved alleged voting-rights violations?
These are among the urgent questions raised by a front-page news story in Sunday's Washington Post.

The story said that, according to some veteran attorneys who've left the department in the last year and others in the civil rights community, the answer is yes.

The news article cited an essay by an attorney who spent 24 years in the division before leaving this year. He asserted that "morale among career attorneys has plummeted, the division's productivity has suffered, and the pace of civil rights enforcement has slowed."

William R. Yeomans' essay, "An Uncivil Division," in the September/October issue of Legal Affairs magazine, painted a dispiriting picture of a corps of career attorneys, many with long years of service handling civil rights cases, shunted aside by the newly-installed political appointees who comprise the division's top decision-making layer.

These political appointees lack "experience in enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws or in managing a large organization," Yeomans claims at one point, but they have forced out "many longtime career leaders of the division and personnel practices have been revamped

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