While it's been only seven months since Eric Holder Jr. took office as U.S. Attorney General, he is making remarkable strides towards extending equal rights in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
In the forefront of his agenda, Holder plans to buck the systematic racial discrimination as it relates to voting rights, housing, employment and bank lending practices.
The Obama administration is planning a massive overhaul of high-impact civil rights enforcements against policies including housing and employment, where minorities fare poorly in disproportionate percentages. The former administration dissuaded from these tactics and opted to focus on individual cases in which evidence of discrimination was obvious.
According to the New York Times, the Civil Rights Division has been plagued with heavy turn-over and politically driven hires during the Bush era. The Obama administration has proposed to revamp the unit with several hundred civil rights lawyers and 50 additional lawyers.
The division is “getting back to doing what it has traditionally done,” Mr. Holder said in an interview. “But it's really only a start. I think the wounds that were inflicted on this division were deep, and it will take some time for them to fully heal.”
Over time, the division has faced a significant amount of controversy stemming from the long-time rift between liberals and conservatives, including issues like school bussing and affirmative action.
In July, the division's head, Loretta King, issued a memorandum to every federal agency urging more aggressive enforcement of regulations that forbid recipients of taxpayer money from policies that have a disparate impact on minorities.
In a transition report, the document states the era of hiring such “inexperienced or poorly qualified” lawyers has left lasting damage.
“While some of the political hires have performed competently and a number of others have left, the net effect of the politicized hiring process and the brain drain is an attorney work force largely ill-equipped to handle the complex, big-impact litigation that should comprise a significant part” of the division's docket, the transition report said.