MSNBC: 'Bush league justice' in Civil Rights Division
The Civil Rights Division has been one of the jewels of the Justice Department. Founded in 1957, it played a leading role in the elimination of segregation and protection of minority rights. But according to MSNBC's Dan Abrams, the Bush administration "has turned the division against the very people it was designed to protect."
Since 2001, the division has not pursued a single case of voting discrimination against African-Americans. In recent years, less than half of new hires have had any civil rights experience -- and the background of almost half of those has actually been in defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or fighting against affirmative action.
Instead of protecting civil rights, the division has focused its attention on cases of "voter fraud," which tend to result in the disenfranchisement of minorities, on "reverse discrimination" against whites, and on claims by Christians of discrimination against religious speech.
Dan Abrams is doing a week-long series on MSNBC, called "Bush League Justice," that he describes as stemming "from my increasing frustration and outrage over how the Bush Administration has politicized the usually apolitical Justice Department. In the process, it has significantly abused its authority to try to enhance power at the expense of any sense of objective justice."
Abrams was joined for the first segment of the series on Monday by two former employees of the Civil Rights Division, David Becker, who is now with People for the American Way, and Alia Malek, who has written on the subject for Salon.com.
Becker acknowledged that "every administration has its own priorities," but emphasized that the politicization of the division under the Bush administration goes way beyond a mere shift in priorities.
For example, among those southern states that are still required to submit redistricting plans for approval, "redistrictings that benefited Democrats got very, very serious scrutiny," while those that helped Republicans sailed through, even in the face of professional opinions that they were discriminatory.
Malek commented that even sadder than the dismantling of the division is that "they've sort of eviscerated the meaning of civil rights."
"They've fundamentally changed what the Civil Rights Division does," Abrams agreed, noting that under Bush the division has focused heavily on cases of religious speech in schools and other public venues.
"The Bush Justice Department is filing brief after after brief ... advocating in favor of spending public money on religious activities," Becker confirmed. Malek added that the religious speech cases aren't even really about discrimination but are just meant to lower the wall of separation between church and state.
Becker further complained that the politicization of the division means that lawyers are hired and promoted for their ideological purity rather than their legal competence, and that this results in "just bad law." Even previous Republican administrations have never politicized the division in this manner.
This video is from MSNBC's Live with Dan Abrams, broadcast on December 10, 2007.