Friday, May 18, 2007

James Crow, Esq.

Since 2003...the criminal section within the Civil Rights Division has not hired a single black attorney to replace those who have left. Not one.

Back in April, I wrote about how the Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice was only interested in protecting the civil rights of white people. At that time, the full extent of discrimination at the DOJ was unknown to me.
...the current face of civil rights prosecutions looks like this: Out of fifty attorneys in the Criminal Section - only two are black. The same number the criminal section had in 1978 - even though the size of the staff has more than doubled.

The dearth of African American lawyers at the DOJ is an issue that has been lost amid the attention given to the myriad scandals unearthed at the DOJ in the wake of the departures of dozens of career lawyers.

Back to the Voting Rights Section:
On her last day in the Civil Rights Division's voting rights section, an African-American 33-year veteran of the Justice Department wanted to send her colleagues a message: "I leave with fond memories of the Voting Section I once knew," she wrote, "and I am gladly escaping the 'Plantation' it has become. For my colleagues still under the 'whip', hold on - 'The Times They are A Changing.'"

Let's take a count. We've got two black lawyers in the Criminal Section. The Voting Rights Section is minus one black lawyer because of the above-mentioned retirement, which means:
Over the past two years, there's been a continual drain of African-American attorneys from the section. Six African-American attorneys have left; there are currently only two out of a total of approximately thirty-five, estimates Joe Rich, the former chief of the voting section.

How about that? There are only two black lawyers in the Voting Rights Section.

We are living the reality of a Department of Justice that uses its power to disenfranchise and oppress black people under the color of law. Fortunately, Congress is now holding oversight hearings and launching investigations about the politicization of the DOJ. However, this injustice ties into another, larger problem we face:
As was reported recently in the New York Law Journal, although there has been, since 1995, a 10 percent increase in the enrollment of law student of color, the number of African Americans attending law schools has been low. In the 2003-2004 school year, the percentage of African American law school students reached a 13-year low. And in 2005, Black enrollment dropped a full 13 percent.

Regardless of whether democrats or republicans are in power, black people are routinely shafted by the justice system. We must increase the number of black students admitted to law schools by tearing down the institutional barriers that have been resurrected in new forms to keep them at a disadvantage no matter how well they do in school. For example, over-reliance on LSAT scores instead of grades wherein affluent students have the money to pay for private classes that teach them how to take the test.
"Jim Crow is dead, but his sophisticated cousin James Crow, Esq., is very much alive. We must cease our premature celebration and get back to the struggle. We cannot be satisfied with a few black faces in high places when millions of our people have been locked out."
--Yolanda Denise King 1955 - 2007

Cross-post from make it plain


Brian said...
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Brian said...

I heard about this a few days ago on a radio report.... and have heard about problems over the past few years.

But your article was the clearest & most concise explanation yet.

There seems to be an effort by the Bush Administration to interfere with the work of the career attorneys and to put their own people in those positions.

Some of the attorneys in the Civil Rights Division have gotten so frustrated that they have quit...which may have been the plan anyway, so that they could replace them.

This is why the Justice Department needs to be an independent agency... with either an elected attorney general... or with an AG appointed by a panel of Federal Judges.... Of course this won't happen, but it would be nice.

As long as we have AG's appointed by Presidents..and beholden to Political leaders, there will always be this corruption.

Sharon Eubanks, another Black U.S. Attorney who quit (although not in the Civil Rights division), talks about how Bush & Co. interferred with some of her cases...

Hear an Interview

Anonymous said...

This organization has a long, complicated, and opportunistic history in this area, irrespective of partisan politics.