Last week, President Donald Trump put forth his nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, giving many social justice and LGBTQ activists major pause.
Eric Dreiband, a Washington, D.C.-based labor attorney, served as general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under President George W. Bush. He has also made a career of defending major entities against discrimination lawsuits.
CNN reports that Dreiband has represented such companies as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, in an age discrimination case; Bloomberg, in a pregnancy-discrimination lawsuit; CVS Pharmacy, in an employee-severance-agreement lawsuit brought by the EEOC; and Abercrombie & Fitch, in a Supreme Court case involving a Muslim woman who was not hired because she wore a headscarf.
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund released a statement last week outlining its opposition to Dreiband, including the fact that he has done no work focused on voter suppression or policing reform. Entitled, “What You Need to Know About President Trump’s Pick to Lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division,” it offers a detailed and scathing rebuke of his nomination.
“Dreiband’s nomination ... continues the Trump administration’s disturbing trend of retreating from — if not outright undermining — fundamental civil rights priorities,” the statement says. It continues:
Dreiband has devoted most of his career to defending corporations in employment discrimination cases and advocating for weaker anti-discrimination protections in the workplace. He also has a troubling lack of experience, having done no significant work in other issue areas central to the Division’s mission, including urgent priorities like voting rights and policing reform.
LGBT groups are also less than enamored with the president’s pick. At issue is his representation of the University of North Carolina, which honored the state’s controversial “bathroom bill” barring people from using public bathrooms that did not correspond to their sex as listed on their birth certificates.
The ACLU got in on the action, too, as did Vanita Gupta, who led the department’s Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, saying that “Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.”
It looks as if there may be a fight brewing over Dreiband’s confirmation hearing; the White House, of course, has defended its choice.
“The White House judges nominees on the merits of their character and not on the clients they once represented as counsel,” a spokeswoman told CNN Friday. “Mr. Dreiband is highly qualified to run the Cuvil Rights Division, and we are privileged to have his service.”