In Shift, Justice Department is Hiring Lawyers With Civil Rights Backgrounds
By Charlie Savage
WASHINGTON — Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has reversed a pattern of systematically hiring conservative lawyers with little experience in civil rights, the practice that caused a scandal over politicization during the Bush administration.
Instead, newly disclosed documents show, the lawyers hired over the past two years at the division have been far more likely to have civil rights backgrounds — and to have ties to traditional civil rights organizations with liberal reputations, like the American Civil Liberties Union or the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law....
“During this administration, the department has restored the career-driven, transparent hiring process that will produce the most qualified attorneys for the job,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
... Specifically, about 90 percent of the Obama-era hires listed civil rights backgrounds on their résumés, up from about 38 percent of the Bush group hires. (There were about 47 Obama-era hires and about 72 in the last six years of the Bush administration.)
Moreover, the Obama-era hires graduated from law schools that had an average ranking of 28, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Bush group had a lower average ranking, 42.
At the same time, there was a change in the political leanings of organizations listed on the résumés, where discernible. Nearly a quarter of the hires of the Bush group had conservative credentials like membership in the Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association, while only 7 percent had liberal ones.
By contrast, during the first two Obama years, none of the new hires listed conservative organizations, while more than 60 percent had liberal credentials. They consisted overwhelmingly of prior employment or internships with a traditional civil rights group, like the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Those findings were amplified by a report on Tuesday by The National Law Journal, which analyzed the résumés of nearly 120 career lawyers hired since 2009 across the entire division. Of that group, it reported, at least 60 had worked for traditional civil rights organizations.
Robert Driscoll, a Bush administration official at the division who left before the hiring scandal, said that a policy of allowing professional civil rights lawyers to make hiring decisions based on civil rights experience was tactically “brilliant” because it would result in disproportionately liberal outcomes without any need for interference by Obama political appointees.