Letter from conservative lawyers to Sessions urging him to rid the civil rights division of “ideological rot.”
March 28, 2017
RE: Restore lawful enforcement policies in the Civil Rights Division
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
We, the undersigned wish to congratulate you on your new post as U.S. Attorney General and
seek to offer guidance on leadership considerations for the next Assistant Attorney General for
the Civil Rights Division.
As you know, the acrown jewela of the Department, the Civil Rights Division, celebrates its 60th
anniversary in 2017. We encourage you to look forward to the next 60 years and discern what
good works the Division may do for generations to come.
Our nation is changing. The mosaic image of America is growing richer in color and detail as
each decade passes. For these reasons, the American people deserve a Division that seeks to
represent and protect all citizens. It also deserves a Division that follows the law and recognizes
the dangers of an oppressive federal government outside the bounds of the law when it comes to
our elections, businesses and criminal justice system.
Together, we have witnessed longstanding conventions held from the mid-20th century prove
outmoded in recent years and discovered new fronts in need of protection where civil rights are
concernedawith particular respect to voting. Discrimination, dilution, and poor processes will
always be constants, yet the victims can vary in our contemporary era. The next Assistant
Attorney General should be cognizant of this reality and be prepared to offer constitutional
leadership promoting the Rule of Law and equal protection for all.
During the Obama administration, the Division served purely ideological ends with rigidity
unmatched in other federal offices. Entrenched federal bureaucrats jettisoned precepts like equal
enforcement in favor of political and racialized dogmas with a zeal that risks litigation failure
and invites court sanctions. Worst of all, the Division has placed itself in the passenger seat while
political allies bring faulty actions against states working to protect their voters.
We offer three general areas of concern demonstrating the need for internal reforms.
The Civil Rights Division has relegated its leadership role to political activists. This must
Perhaps one of the greatest myths pushed by the Obama DOJas apologists was the claim of being
the driving force for voter protection. That administrationas record paints an entirely different
picture. In the eight year period, hardly any cases were filed under the Voting Rights and
National Voter Registration Acts.1 At no time did the division bring a suit against voting
discrimination or intimidation on its own. Yet, the public perception was that the previous
Attorneys General were somehow vigorous champions of civil rights.
The past eight years have shone what aleading from behinda can do to state interests in
protecting voters when dedicated activists are acting as signal callers. Voter identification suits
were needlessly brought and lost such as in South Carolina; a single, racially-focused
redistricting case can drag almost a decade; and millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted
perverting voting laws to engineer political advantage.
The ideological rot impacting the Civil Rights Division was already laid bare by the Office
of Inspector General. Itas time to make changes.
After a four year investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General
released a review of operations within the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division in March
2013.2 The 250 page report detailed the toxic manner in which the Division placed preferences
on voting rights victim cohorts and bullied employees from daring to enforce the law in a
Investigators noted that the Division, then led by AAG Tom Perez, maintained a culture of
holding that they did not believe civil rights laws should protect all Americans. Investigators
were also not amused by the apetty and juvenile personal attacksa some Division employees
posted on public websites about coworkers they shared legal disagreements with, particularly
against employees who were openly Christian. Far beyond collegial banter, the report found that
such statements were ahighly offensive and potentially threateninga to others. Noted in the
The highly offensive comments included suggestions that the parents of one former
career Section attorney were Nazis, disparaging a career manageras physical appearance
and guessing how he/she would look without clothing, speculation that another career
manager was watching pornography in her office, and references to aYellow Fever,a in
connection with allusions to marital infidelity involving two career Voting Section
employees, one of whom was described as 'look[ing] Asian.'"
Perhaps most demonstrable of how close Division staff were to third party allies, the report
stated, aWe also found incidents in which Voting Section career staff shared confidential Section
information with outside civil rights attorneys, some of whom were working on matters where
they were adverse to the Department."
Worst of all, former Assistant Attorney General Perez specifically refused to implement the
recommendations of the Inspector General when it comes to hiring. Specifically, the Inspector
U.S. Department of Justice; Voting Section Litigation (accessed March 1, 2017),
DOJ-OIG; A Review of the Operations of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division (March 2013),
General recommended that ademonstrated commitment to civil rightsa resulted in the perception
that attorney hires were only made from employees of left-wing groups. In this case, perception
and reality were synonymous. The Assistant Attorney Generals in each component Division
must preserve or reacquire hiring authority and not leave the decisions in the hands of career
bureaucrats who are reliably opposed to President Trumpas agenda.
The Division has repeatedly been admonished for unethical behavior by the federal courts.
We deserve better.
In 2006, the DOJ Office of Legislative Affairs compiled a list of episodes upon request where
Division attorneysa alegal work was either admonished in a court opinion or where the Division
paid attorneysa fees or settlement fees over its involvement in a lawsuit.a3 The letter detailed 11
cases from 1993 to 2000 where the federal government was required to pay $4,107,595.09 in
fees and court costs after bringing faulty actions. Roughly half of the taxpayer burden belonged
in the Voting Section alone. Repeatedly, employees abused their former powers under the Voting
Rights Act by mandating racial gerrymandering in states like Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and
South Carolina to create partisan advantages. State and individual parties saw repeat success in
overturning these matters, leaving the courts to require that $2.5 million public dollars be paid
out at the conclusion of litigation.
The letter provides additional insight into the culture of collegiality that is shared between
Division staff and third party activist organizations. In a 1993 Georgia redistricting case, the
court found that an America Civil Liberties Union attorney was in aconstant contacta with DOJ
staff communicating in adisturbinga tones that were ainformal and familiara, as opposed to an
aadvocate submitting proposals to higher authorities.a
Looking forward, the next Assistant Attorney General should be committed to returning the Civil
Rights Division to equal enforcement of all federal voting statutes strictly to advance the Rule of
Lawarather than partisan gamesmanship. Listed below are brief examples of immediate
strategic shifts to pursue.
Return to race-neutral Voting Rights Act enforcement that seeks to block discriminatory
policies and procedures based on demonstrable impacts rather than mere statistical
Put an end to politically-driven pursuits against state photo voter identification
requirements, citizenship verification in voter registration, and common-sense
adjustments to early voting periods.
Return to enforcing federal statutes barring against voter intimidation. Repeatedly, the
Obama DOJ failed to act.
Return to enforcing Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act requiring that voter
rolls meet federal maintenance standards.
DOJ-OLA letter to Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner dated April 12, 2006
If the persistent, flagging voter participation rates are any indication, the American electorate is
crying out to see protection against political enforcement of the law. The road to reform will be a
rough one requiring time and perseverance. The next AAG certainly cannot be a proponent of the
status quo by any means.
Thank you for the attention given to these observations. Together, we look forward to further,
fruitful conversations as you consider this most critical staffing position.
(Title and affiliation for informational
J. Christian Adams
Public Interest Legal Foundation
Center for Equal Opportunity
Hans von Spakovsky
The Heritage Foundation
Kansas Secretary of State
William Perry Pendley
Mountain States Legal Foundation
Landmark Legal Foundation
Center for Individual Rights
President of American Family Association
Director of Governmental Affairs
American Family Association
Chair, Public Interest Legal Foundation
Dr. John C. Eastman, Founding Director,
The Claremont Instituteas Center for
Veteran conservative columnist
Attorney & Author of Licensed to Lie
Allen Roth, President
Secure America Now
Emmett McGroarty, Esq.
Senior Fellow, American Principles Project
American Civil Rights Union
Johns Hopkins University, Center for
Advanced Governmental Studies
President, Americans for Limited Gov.
Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr.
President and Founder of S.T.A.N.D
Joel C. Mandelman
U.S. Comm. on Civil Rights