Civil Rights Division Aims to Reduce Politicized Hiring
By Ryan J. Reilly | December 18, 2009 12:59 pm

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has put in place new hiring rules that division leaders say will prevent the type of politicized hiring that an Inspector General’s report concluded took place during the Bush administration.

“It really is based on the following very simple premise, which is to hire the best qualified people, plain and simple,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division, in a briefing with reporters yesterday. “We have put in place systems that will ensure that career staff are involved — hiring committees in each section — so that we get the input of career staff.”

The hiring rules, which career staffers helped write, are not permanent and could be changed by future administrations.

Perez said that the Justice Department funding bill signed by President Obama this week will allow the Civil Rights Division to hire 102 new people, the majority of them lawyers, which Perez said will be an important part of the division’s “restoration and revitalization efforts.”

In a January report, the department’s internal watchdogs concluded that Bradley Schlozman, who was a deputy and acting head of the division during the Bush administration, violated federal law in his quest to stock the division with his political allies. During his tenure, Schlozman hired 99 lawyers, according to the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility. Sixty-three of them had Republican affiliations, two of them were Democrats, and 34 were labeled as “unknown,” according to the report.

One of those lawyers hired by Schlozman in the Voting Section, J. Christian Adams, brought a voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party in the last days of the Bush administration. His lawyer has been arguing with the Justice Department that Adams has an obligation to follow the directive of a subpoena from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the handling of the case.

The Obama transition team’s confidential report on the division, obtained by The New York Times and since cited by Perez in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, showed that 236 civil rights lawyers left from 2003 to 2007. The division has about 350 lawyers, which will increase to more than 400 under the Justice Department’s new budget for fiscal 2010.

A memo describing the new hiring rules posted on the Civil Rights Division Web site is embedded below.

Attorney Hiring Experienced

Joe Palazzolo contributed to this story.

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