Questions have surfaced over a Justice Department plan to hire 44 more attorneys for its Civil Rights Division, which has been accused of bias by members of Congress and been described in a government report as having deep ideological differences that have fueled disputes harmful to its operation.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s 2014 fiscal budget says the bulk of the attorneys being sought by the Justice Department are earmarked to help meet the “nation’s civil rights challenges,” to support the “department’s vigorous enforcement of federal civil rights laws” and to expand criminal enforcement efforts against “police misconduct.”
But several senior Republicans said the Civil Rights Division historically has hired lawyers based on their political views and not their legal experience, and changes need to be made before any new lawyers are brought on board.
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it will take “a new kind of leadership” to eliminate the “politicization and polarization of the Civil Rights Division.”
Mr. Grassley noted that the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General first reported on the division’s politicized hiring policies in 2008 and found similar problems in a follow-up report in March.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science, has called for an independent review of the Civil Rights Division. He said the inspector general’s report made it clear that the division had become “a rat’s nest of unacceptable and unprofessional actions, and even outright threats against career attorneys and systemic mismanagement.”
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, went to the Senate floor Wednesday to outline his opposition to the nomination of Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Civil Rights Division as an assistant attorney general, as President Obama’s labor secretary.
He said that under Mr. Perez, the Voting Rights Division compiled a “disturbing record of political discrimination and selective enforcement of our laws.” He said the inspector general’s report found that the Voting Rights Section under Mr. Perez’s leadership has become so politicized and so unprofessional that at times it became simply dysfunctional.