The National Law Journal has found that President Barack Obama’s career attorney hires in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department are more qualified for such positions than those hired under George W. Bush.
Several of Bush’s Department of Justice appointees were found to have hired conservative lawyers with little experience in civil rights. Conversely, a majority of recent hires have had experience in historic civil-rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union or NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. New hires seem more qualified in other ways as well.
An analysis by the New York Times looked at the resumes of hires in the voting rights, employment discrimination, and appellate sections of the Department of Justice and determined that hires over the last two years attended more selective law schools than those hired over the final six years of the Bush administration.
The average law-school ranking by U.S. News & World Report of an Obama-era hire was 28, much better than the Bush assemblage’s 42.
Some of the documents used in this review were released to coincide with the first Republican-led House Judiciary subcommittee oversight hearing on the Civil Rights Division. They help dispel criticism by conservatives that the Obama administration is politicizing hires.
Such charges are ironic, considering that Bush’s process, including the hiring of Monica Goodling, Kyle Sampson and Mary Beth Buchanan, imposed political litmus tests to ensure the selection of right-wing conservatives.
The Bush administration was ultimately found to have unlawfully blocked liberal hires while aggressively filling civil-service vacancies with conservatives. Along with the Bush hires came a noticeable decline in enforcement of anti-discrimination and voting rights laws, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Thomas E. Perez, who now supervises the Civil Rights Division, has changed hiring policies to give career professionals, rather than political appointees, the authority to make their own recommendations on selection of both entry-level and experienced lawyers. These recommendations can only be overruled in writing. Perez reportedly has not taken liberty to do so.
It is going to take time to repair the damage done to the Department of Justice under Bush’s two terms, but the department is moving in the right direction.