Justice Department to Recharge Civil Rights Enforcement

Charlie Savage, New York Times, September 1, 2009

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As part of this shift, the Obama administration is planning a major revival of high-impact civil rights enforcement against policies, in areas ranging from housing to hiring, where statistics show that minorities fare disproportionately poorly. President George W. Bush’s appointees had discouraged such tactics, preferring to focus on individual cases in which there is evidence of intentional discrimination.

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Among the critics, Hans von Spakovsky, a former key Bush-era official at the division, has accused the Obama team of “nakedly political” maneuvers.

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In July, moreover, the division’s acting head, Loretta King, sent a memorandum to every federal agency urging more aggressive enforcement of regulations that forbid recipients of taxpayer money from policies that have a disparate impact on minorities.

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“Of course there are going to be critics,” Mr. Holder said. But, he argued, “any objective observer” would see the recent approach as consistent with “the historical mission of the division, not straying into some kind of liberal orthodoxy. It really is just a function of enforcing the statutes.”

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