AG Holder, Justice Department Not Playing When It Comes to Civil Rights

Seven months on the job and Attorney General Eric Holder is commissioning the Civil Rights division of the DOJ to get back into the fray...

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Whatever your opinion, Eric Holder is certainly an Attorney General looking to make an impact. To that end, he and the rest of the Obama administration are making a concerted effort in the enforcement of civil rights, particularly in the areas of voting, housing and bank lending.

This move is a departure from the former administrations approach, which chose to treat cases on an individual basis in which a discriminatory act or practice was clear. From The New York Times:

To bolster a unit that has been battered by heavy turnover and a scandal over politically tinged hiring under the Bush administration, the Obama White House has also proposed a hiring spree that would swell the ranks of several hundred civil rights lawyers with more than 50 additional lawyers, a significant increase for a relatively small but powerful division of the government.

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.”

Few agencies are more engaged in the nation’s social and cultural debates than the Civil Rights Division, which was founded in 1957 to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

The division has been at the center of a number of controversies over the decades, serving as a proxy for disputes between liberals and conservatives in matters like school busing and affirmative action. When the Nixon administration took office, it sought to delay school desegregation plans reached under former President Lyndon B. Johnson. The Reagan administration dropped the division’s policy of opposing tax-exempt status for racially discriminatory private schools. And former President Bill Clinton withdrew his first nominee to lead the division, Lani Guinier, after her writings about racial quotas were criticized.

Get the full scoop here.

Also at THE BROWNTABLE: Obama's Jiminy Cricket

In matters of civil rights, is the Obama administration's approach the right one or was the previous administration's more hands-off approach preferable?