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Tag: Justice Department

Thomas Saenz Tapped to Head Justice Dept. Civil Rights Division

Thomas Saenz

Thomas Saenz

The selection of Thomas  Saenz is getting a thumbs up from the civil rights attorneys and academics, which is important considering the division had its share of problems during the Bush years.

By Wall Street Journal Law Blog

This just in: The Los Angeles Daily Journal is reporting that President Obama has tapped Thomas Saenz to head the civil rights division at the Department of Justice.

Saenz, 42, the former vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Los Angeles, is currently serving as counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Neither Saenz nor representatives from the DOJ provided comment to the LADJ, which cited unnamed sources.

For Full Story

Can A.G. Eric Holder Jr. Heal the Justice Department’s Wounds of the Past?

Eric Holder Jr/gov photo

Eric Holder Jr/gov photo

President Obama inherited a mess: two wars, a failing economy a sky-high anxiety level around the country, and oh yes, a Justice Department that needed serious mending.
He’s tasked Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. with reparing things at Justice. Can Holder do it?

By Michael Weisskopf
Time magazine
WASHINGTON — Eric Holder Jr. was trained long ago in crime and punishment. He grew up in the East Elmhurst section of Queens, N.Y.–so populated by cops and firefighters that rush hour looked like the shift change at a station house.
A popular teen prank was setting off the red fire-alarm box near his modest brick house on 101st Street. Nearly everyone tried it once, but not Eric, the churchgoing Boy Scout who knew the consequence of disobeying rules: “A good, quick smack on the bottom,” his mother Miriam recalls. “If you did something wrong, you’re going to have to pay a price.”
That rule guided Holder after he left Queens to become a corruption prosecutor, municipal judge and U.S. Attorney. And it will probably guide him as the nation’s 82nd Attorney General. Holder takes over a sprawling, 110,000-person Justice Department that was treated at times like a private law firm by the Bush Administration, both in its novel interpretation of the law and in the way it purged employees who did not share its political views.
For Full Story

Atty Fired Under Bush Regime After Rumors of Being A Lesbian is Rehired

Things are quickly changing at the Justice Department — quicker than expected.

By Ari Shapiro
NPR
All Things Considered
WASHINGTON —  On Monday, the Justice Department undid a small part of the damage that top officials caused in a scandal of politicized hiring and firing during the Bush administration. The department rehired an attorney who was improperly removed from her job because she was rumored to be a lesbian.
NPR first broke the story of Leslie Hagen’s dismissal last April, and the Justice Department’s inspector general later corroborated the report. Now, Hagen has returned to her post at the department’s Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.
For Full Story

Eric Holder Vows to Staff to Fight Terrorism and Improve Integrity of Dept.

Eric Holder Jr.
Eric Holder Jr.

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com
WASHINGTON — The newly minted Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. addressed Justice Department employees Tuesday morning and vowed to fight terrorism and improve the integrity of the department.
“We must restore the credibility of this Department, which has been so badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference,” he said, according to a prepared statement released by the Justice Department. “Law enforcement decisions and personnel actions must, and they will, be untainted by partisanship.”
In the area of terrorism, he said:
“We must strengthen the activities of the federal government as we protect the people – the American people – from terrorism. Nothing we will do will be more important. We must use every available tactic to defeat our adversaries – and we must do so within the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. There is not a tension between the ideals that formed this nation and that which we must do to keep it safe.
The following is the full text of his speech:

Good morning.

It’s a privilege to speak to you today, both as the new Attorney General and as your returning colleague. I am deeply honored to have the opportunity once again to work side-by-side with all of you here at the United States Department of Justice.
The Justice Department has aptly been described as the “crown jewel” of the federal government. It has attained this distinction not because of any laws or regulations, cases or controversies, buildings or equipment, but rather because of the quality, integrity, and dedication of the people who work tirelessly to carry out the Department’s vital mission. Simply stated, you – the employees of the United States Department of Justice – are the backbone, the heart, and the soul of this great agency.

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A.G. Holder Recruiting from Blue Chip firms and the Old Clinton Justice Dept.

David Ogden

David Ogden

The recruits have impressive backgrounds. But is it better to dip back into the past for talent or find fresh talent?

By David Ingram and Joe Palazzolo
Legal Times
WASHINGTON — Eric Holder Jr. and David Ogden, two men who have split their time since the mid-1990s between Main Justice and Big Law, are drawing on that experience to recruit their top assistants.
They’re preparing to surround themselves with lawyers from Covington & Burling and from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr-their respective firms for the last eight years-as well as from the ranks of the Clinton-era Department of Justice.
Justice officials say that Holder, whose nomination to be attorney general is scheduled for a Senate vote today, has chosen Kevin Ohlson as his chief of staff. Ohlson, who is currently the director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, served as Holder’s chief of staff when he was deputy attorney general.
Stuart Delery is Ogden’s pick for chief of staff if Ogden is confirmed as deputy attorney general, according to the Justice Department. A Wilmer alum, Delery specializes in securities litigation. He represented the special investigative committees convened by the boards at both Enron and Worldcom. He was also on the team of Wilmer lawyers that represented the University of Michigan in the high-profile Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld the consideration of race as a factor in admissions.

For Full Story

Justice Says Missing White House Emails Found

Funny how those emails seemed to turn up just at the right time.

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — A Justice Department lawyer told a federal judge yesterday that the Bush administration will meet its legal requirement to transfer e-mails to the National Archives after spending more than $10 million to locate 14 million e-mails reported missing four years ago from White House computer files.
Civil division trial lawyer Helen H. Hong made the disclosure at a court hearing provoked by a 2007 lawsuit filed by outside groups to ensure that politically significant records created by the White House are not destroyed or removed before President Bush leaves office at noon on Tuesday. She said the department plans to argue in a court filing this week that the administration’s successful recent search renders the lawsuit moot.
Hong’s statement came hours after U.S. District Court Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. ordered employees of the president’s executive office — with just days to go before their departure — to undertake a comprehensive search of computer workstations, preserve portable hard drives and examine any e-mail archives created or retained from 2003 to 2005, the period in which e-mails appeared to be missing.
For Full Story

Inspector Gen. Says Ideological Considerations Tainted Hiring Process At Justice Civil Rights Division

Bradley Schlozman

Bradley Schlozman

Here’s just another disturbing footnote in the Justice Department in the Bush years.
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — Ideological considerations permeated the hiring process at the Justice Department’s civil rights division, where a politically appointed official sought to hire “real Americans” and Republicans for career posts and prominent case assignments, according to a long awaited report released this morning by the department’s inspector general.
The extensive study of hiring practices between 2001 and 2007 concluded that a former department official improperly weeded out candidates based on their perceived ties to liberal organizations. Two other senior managers failed to oversee the process, authorities said.
The key official, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bradley Schlozman, favored employees who shared his political views and derided others as “libs” and “pinkos,” the report said.
For Full Story
To Read Report

Read Additional Information (Washington Post)

Griffin Bell’s Contributions to Federal Criminal Justice

I saw Griffin Bell’s name every morning for almost three decades when I entered my office in the Detroit U. S. Attorney’s Office. His signature was on the DOJ certificate which hung behind my desk. His death this week, at age 90, brings to mind subjects like civility and the gradual approach to solving problems and making improvements, subjects which get scant attention in most prosecutors’ offices.

Griffin Bell told the 1977 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination as Attorney General that he had integrated more schools than any other judge. He accomplished this on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals during a very difficult era of American civil rights by gradually implementing pragmatic plans which moved the South to a new educational system. His detractors said that this approach defied Brown v. Board of Education’s order to integrate “with all deliberate speed.” But few of them lived with the tens of thousands of angry Southerners who feared that equality of opportunity for African American children would doom a way of life for the majority. Griffin Bell’s civil and courtly gradualism made it possible for men like Barack Obama and Eric Holder to hold leadership positions thirty years later.

In the Justice Department, Bell brought this same incremental approach to a department desperately in need of both image rehabilitation and modernization. It has always been a challenge for the Attorney General to set a course which reconciles its dual, and often bipolar, responsibilities, political and nonpolitical. Advising the President, vetting judicial nominees, proposing legislation-all of these functions and more require the Department to be immersed in the political circus. But increasingly in the last half of the 20th Century, more was expected of the country’s legal department. People expected fair adjudicative procedures and policies and guaranteed independent enforcement of its laws free of personal, partisan, or popular bias. Ironically, it was the reaction to the Watergate incident, Saturday Night Massacre and criminality of John Mitchell which defined how important this principle of de-politicization had become.

Justice Department historians, if there are any, will record the 1970s as an important time in this progression, as well as its modernization to meet the needs of a more complex system of law enforcement. The mission of federal prosecutors and agents was beginning to include proactive cases and methods to go along with their traditional reactive staples such as buy-bust drug cases, bank robberies and customs seizures. These new cases would require better technology, specialized prosecutors and investigators, and more nuanced criminal laws. Griffin Bell’s policies to promote these objectives would gain him no headlines and are hardly discernible looking back 30 years later. But they laid the groundwork for the complex work of the 21st Century Justice Department.

The other principle that Griffin Bell stands for is the emphasis on civility and ethical obligations. He reminded us in the U. S. Attorney’s Office of these subjects when he visited Detroit in 1978. America has always been schizoid about expectations for its prosecutors. On the one hand, we must be hard-nosed, tough zealots advocating the longest sentence and the draconian result. But we are also expected to be fair, even merciful, and most of all, advocate a just resolution, even if contrary to “winning” a case. Griffin Bell could have penned the instruction commonly given by trial judges to juries in federal criminal trials at the close of the evidence, an instruction which admittedly causes Assistant U. S. Attorneys to wince occasionally: The jury need not be concerned with whether the government wins or loses the case because the government always wins when justice is done.

Justice Cardozo in a previous century explained that justice is a concept which is never finished but is always reproducing itself, incrementally, generation after generation in ever changing forms. Griffin Bell grasped this concept like few others in his generation and, in doing so, made an important contribution to the development of the rule of law in this country.

By Ross Parker