Department of Justice

  • October 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Pratheepan Gulasekaram, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University

    Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a “last chance” warning to several “sanctuary cities.” The letters - sent to Cook County, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – informed local officials that their policies regarding investigation of an individual’s immigration status, or their reporting of the same, may be in violation of federal law. Further, if they do not provide additional assurances that they are in compliance with the specified federal law by October 27th, they risk losing certain law enforcement grants (Byrne/JAG funds) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) administers to localities to augment their policing, equipment, prosecution, corrections, drug treatment plans, victim or witness programs, or other related efforts. 

    These ominous letters, with accompany rhetoric from the Attorney General, continue the Trump Administration’s months-long campaign against cities that have exercised their constitutionally-protected prerogative to decline participation in federal immigration enforcement efforts. As has become routine for Sessions, this latest round includes the same misrepresentations linking immigrants and criminality that he and the President have consistently spewed, with the Attorney General repeating the falsehood that sanctuary policies make cities more dangerous.

  • September 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin

    The Justice Department's recent about-face on a voting rights case was such a betrayal of long-standing DOJ policy that a group of former political appointees and career lawyers filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on Friday, citing more than two decades of consistent enforcement of the rule in question – until Trump.

    In a possibly unprecedented move, the former Justice lawyers essentially made an argument on behalf of the Department as an institution, representing itself in opposition to its current leadership.

    "Amici submit this brief in their individual capacities to provide the Court with the Department’s longstanding view of the Question Presented, the view the current administration has abandoned," the brief says.

  • January 18, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Bill Yeomans, Fellow in Law and Government at American University Washington College of Law

    The election of Donald Trump has thrown the federal bureaucracy into uncertainty and nowhere is that uncertainty felt more strongly than in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Trump’s campaign invoked racism, misogyny, xenophobia and disregard for the rule of law – all directly at odds with the fundamental laws that the Division enforces. The nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general confirmed the worst fears of Division lawyers that, once again, it is in the crosshairs of an incoming administration that is hostile to its mission. Many who work there face a decision whether to stay or go.

    I know. I spent 26 years in the Department of Justice, starting in the Jimmy Carter presidency and running through the transitions to Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. I chose to stay in the belief that the work of combating discrimination remained essential and to challenge the new administration to adhere to the Division’s tradition of formulating its positions through reasoned, legal argument, rather than political fiat. I recognized both that the career attorneys – with their fidelity to the law and knowledge of the Department’s customs and traditions--presented the strongest impediment to radical, lawless change and that even in the most challenging times important work could be done. In the weeks since the election, I have been approached by career attorneys wondering whether the Division will remain a place where they can work. My answer is that it is an intensely personal choice, but that they should understand that they have an important role to play in pressing for continued enforcement of the law and against politically driven retreat. Indeed, the corps of dedicated career employees remains the principal bulwark against the threat of a lawless executive.

    Since its creation in the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Civil Rights Division has increased opportunity for large segments of the population. It has expanded access to meaningful voting; desegregated police and fire departments; attacked school desegregation; opened housing markets; expanded access to employment and accommodations for people with disabilities; and prosecuted police officers for using excessive force, people who engage in hate motivated violence and those who traffic in human beings. 

  • November 30, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Linda Greenhouse writes that the birth control and abortion cases on the Supreme Court’s docket present “a battle for the secular state in which women can make their choices and design what Justice Ginsburg calls their life course, free of obstacles erected by those who would impose their religious views on others.”

    At The Washington Post, Sandhya Somashekhar explains how violent, deceiving rhetoric from anti-abortion advocates directly contributed to the shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last Friday.

    The family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black male fatally shot by a white police officer last year, has presented Ohio prosecutors with two new reports from former high-ranking officials at California law enforcement agencies criticizing the Cleveland officer’s actions as reckless and unreasonable, writes Mitch Smith in The New York Times.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on the Department of Justice to investigate the Thanksgiving Day shooting of a Muslim taxi driver in Pittsburgh by an Islamophobic passenger, reports Peter Holley in The Washington Post.

  • September 10, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In The New York Times, Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz detail the violent death of an inmate at the hands of New York prison guards. 

    Michael Biesecker at The Associated Press reports that Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday that House Republicans can move forward with their claim that the Obama administration’s health care spending has violated the Constitution.

    In The New York Times, Matt Apuzzo and Ben Protess examine new policies from the Department of Justice that prioritize the prosecution of individual Wall Street employees, not companies, directly involved in the 2008 housing crisis and financial meltdown.