Bench Memos

Calling the Kettle Black

Today the New York Times inadvertently confirmed that the Obama administration’s hiring in the DOJ’s scandal-ridden Civil Rights Division is significantly more partisan than was hiring under Bush. The piece starts out by criticizing the Bush Civil Rights Division for hiring “conservative lawyers with little experience in civil rights.” They suggest that the Bush administration was impermissibly hiring disproportionate numbers of conservatives for career positions that should be ideologically neutral. Yet the numbers show precisely the opposite. Under Bush nearly 25 percent of hires had conservative credentials, versus over 60 percent with liberal credentials now.

One former DOJ member explained that they simply went to hiring lawyers with “terrific civil rights experience,” including groups like the ACLU, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — organizations not known for being politically neutral. It’s not ideological bias, the argument goes, but lawyers with civil rights experience just happen to all work for far-left organizations.

Let’s set aside the fact that the resulting ideological bias is easily enough to trigger the type of “disproportionate impact” that the Civil Rights Division frequently litigates in other contexts. The fact of the matter is, for every case these civil-rights groups bring, there are lawyers on the defense side with just as much experience in the laws. DOJ could claim that those defense lawyers are actually opposed to the civil rights they champion — but in a world where the Guantanamo Seven can go overnight from defending enemy combatants to enforcing our national defense laws, that argument rings hollow


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