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Every Single One: The Politicized Hiring of Eric Holder’s Employment Section

All 15 new hires to the Justice Department's Education Section have far-left resumes — which were only released following a PJMedia lawsuit. (This is the sixth in a series of articles about the Justice Department's hiring practices since President Obama took office. Read parts one, two, three, four, and five.)

by
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Bio

August 22, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Eric Bachman:  Mr. Bachman spent the 10 years before coming to the Employment Section as an attorney at a plaintiff’s law firm in Washington where he pursued civil rights class actions against major corporations. Before that, he worked as a staff attorney at the Jefferson County (Ky.) Public Defender’s Office and as an intern at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. He also remains a member of the Innocence Project of the National Capital Region. During law school, he served as an editor of the Georgetown Journal on Fighting Poverty

Elizabeth Banaszak:  Ms. Banaszak comes to the Section straight out of law school, but her left-wing ideological bona fides are already firmly intact.  During law school, she clerked at the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, volunteered with the Employment Justice Center, and interned at the radically partisan National Partnership for Women & Families. This latter group, an advocacy organization headed by radical ideologues Debra Ness and Judith Lichtman, promotes abortion rights and opposes all Republican Supreme Court nominees. She also worked as a legislative assistant and field organizing assistant at the ACLU in Washington, where she focused on gay marriage and church/state issues. And she assisted with the research for a Stanford Law Review article titled “Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication,” which advocated increased grants of asylum to illegal aliens.

Trevor Blake:  Mr. Blake contributed $250 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and, in 2010, gave another $250 to the Democratic National Committee. During his law school days, he was an editor of the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, a publication whose stated “mission is to explore the impact of gender, sexuality, and race on both the theory and practice of law” and thereby “complement… a long tradition of feminist scholarship and advocacy at the [Georgetown] Law Center.” His own contribution to the journal was an article titled “You Get What You Pay For:  A New Feminist Proposal for Allocating Marital Property Upon Divorce.”

Alicia Johnson:  Ms. Johnson recently commenced her second tour of duty in the Employment Section, having been hired the first time around in the final days of the Clinton administration. At the time, she was part of an influx of new radical attorneys brought on board by former Acting Assistant Attorney General Bill Yeomans in a mass hiring wave designed to fill open career slots in the Civil Rights Division with left-wing activists before President Bush entered the White House. She left in 2004, however, to join the greener pastures of the private law firm world, and showered substantial largesse — $5,600 according to FEC records — on Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in the process. During her first stint in the Division, she was widely considered to be one of the more partisan Democrats on staff. A review of her resume (even with the heavy redactions by the Justice Department’s FOIA office) reveals how she developed this reputation.

During her law school days at Howard University, she was a member of the “Social Justice Law Review” and an intern at the District of Columbia Public Defender’s Office. She also volunteered her time representing inmates incarcerated at the Lorton Correctional Facility who were charged with disciplinary infractions. Her focus on seeing everything through a racial prism seems to go back to her undergraduate days at Spelman College, where she wrote her senior thesis on “Color Complexes in the Dating Behavior of African-American College Students Attending Historically Black Colleges in Atlanta.”

Amy Kurren:  Ms. Kurren joined the Section as part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Honors Program only one year out of law school, and it is easy to understand why he found her such a good ideological fit. She worked for two years at the ACLU of Northern California and interned one summer at the liberal Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She also interned at the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, where she advocated in favor of special land rights for native Hawaiians and sought to protect “the rights of incarcerated native Hawaiians to dance the hula and perform Hawaiian chants and rituals in privately owned prisons in Arizona.” Good grief!

Her fun did not end there, though. Ms. Kurren also interned for the NAACP LDF, where she assisted the organization with its efforts to give voting rights to incarcerated felons (not just released felons, but currently incarcerated felons). Her resume further highlights her service as the Yale Law School’s community chair of the American Constitution Society (which opposes interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning) and her role as the minority recruitment chair for the Asian Law Students Association.

Louis Lopez:  The very liberal Mr. Lopez is also on his second tour with the Employment Section, having previously been hired as a trial attorney during the Bush administration. (So much for the supposed conservative litmus test that the Bush Civil Rights Division was absurdly accused of following.) Like many of his colleagues, Mr. Lopez was a contributor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. He also served as a Democratic political appointee at the EEOC during the Clinton Administration under Commissioner (and noted radical) Ida Castro.

He is a member of both the Civil Rights Division’s GLBT (gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender) Working Group as well as the American Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (“SOGI”), which describes itself as one of four entities that together seek to further the ABA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. He also volunteers with the Employment Justice Center. During law school, he worked for the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, but his other activities have been conspicuously redacted from his resume.

Valerie Meyer:  Ms. Meyer was a trial attorney and mediator for the EEOC before coming to the Employment Section. She previously worked as a law clerk for the non-profit Disability Rights Advocates organization in Berkeley, California. She also participated in the Death Penalty Clinic while a law student at Berkeley, and served as editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law, and Justice. Ms. Meyer was one of the Section’s new attorneys who sued the New Jersey Civil Service Commission under a dubious “disparate impact” theory claiming that the exam used to select police sergeants in the State was too difficult for blacks to pass. Faced with the prospect of years of costly litigation in an already cash-strapped environment, the State agreed to settle earlier this month and to promote the applicants who flunked the exam the first time around.  Let’s hope this “victory” for DOJ doesn’t endanger  the safety of New Jersey’s population; there is no question it discriminates against those who successfully passed the exam.

Aaron Schuham:  Mr. Schuham is another newly hired deputy chief in the Employment Section, and easily rates as one of the more radical attorneys to join the Division during Eric Holder’s reign. For seven years prior to coming to DOJ, Mr. Schuham worked as the legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization that seeks to eradicate any vestige of faith or religion in the public sphere. The very idea that the Obama administration would put the former legislative director of this organization in charge of enforcing the prohibition against religious discrimination in the Civil Rights Act is offensive.

His presence also may explain the outrageous brief that the Obama administration just filed before the Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC – Schuham’s name is listed on the brief along with a number of other Justice lawyers. As Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center explains, Justice is taking the wildly expansive position that there should be no “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws. This contention is not only contrary to every federal court of appeals, all of which have uniformly recognized such an exception for religious institutions as “rooted in the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious freedom,” but it is even more hostile to the First Amendment than the amicus briefs filed in the case by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the ACLU. These organizations must be overjoyed at Schuhams’ influence at Justice.

As is true of several of the new hires, this is Mr. Schuham’s second stint with the Employment Section. He previously worked there during the Clinton administration but left after enduring a year of the Bush presidency, apparently frustrated at the lack of overt activism that had been the hallmark of the Section under Attorney General Janet Reno. Indeed, his resume notes that he spent his first tour in the Section seeking to defend the constitutionality of racial preferences (quotas) in employment and federal contracting.

He also was a part of the Section’s trial team on its now infamous disparate impact lawsuit against the New York City Board of Education, which argued that minority custodians had been discriminated against because of an entrance exam that they could not pass in the same proportion as whites. In an obviously politically motivated settlement, the city initially rolled over and agreed to a consent decree that granted retroactive seniority to nearly 60 minority custodians. The only problem was that many of these individuals weren’t victims at all; they hadn’t even taken the exam but yet were displacing whites on the city’s seniority list. A group of white custodians responded by intervening and convincing the Second Circuit to throw out the consent decree. Once the Bush Civil Rights Division’s leadership got wind of the Section’s shoddy lawyering and political shenanigans, it ordered that the pleadings be modified and that relief no longer be sought on behalf of 32 of the original 60 “victims.” It also removed the trial team (including Mr. Schuham) from the case and transferred the then-chief of the Section (who, incidentally, is now the head of the Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, and is responsible for much of the politicized hiring that PJM chronicled two weeks ago) out of the Division. All of this infuriated Ted Kennedy at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, but the Second Circuit recently upheld the legitimacy of the decisions made by the Bush leadership.

And now the Division has warmly welcomed him back into a senior leadership position in the Employment Section. One cannot help but feel sorry for the states and municipalities he will now target.

Barbara Schwabauer:  Ms. Schwabauer is another Honors Program hire, joining the Section fresh from Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law. She is actually featured in one of her law school’s ads, describing how she is “a student committed to social justice.” She penned a law review article in the Ohio State Law Journal in which she claims that the criminal justice system is racist. Relying heavily on psycho-babble and what she calls “critical race theory and discursive analysis,” she claims to “interrogate the narrative of Congress in enacting the” Emmitt Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act. In effect, she argues that Congress actually perpetuated racism in the criminal justice system by the passage of the Act. A perfect fit for the Civil Rights Division.

Jennifer Swedish: Ms. Swedish comes to the Section from the liberal National Women’s Law Center, where she worked as a Health Law Fellow concentrating on “regulatory changes to Title X Family Planning Program” (read: promoting abortion rights). She served a judicial clerkship with Martha Craig Daughtrey, an extremely liberal Clinton appointee on the Sixth Circuit who recently held that Michigan’s ban on the use of race in public employment, contracting, and college admissions was unconstitutional. (Daughtrey actually claims — get this — that the Equal Protection doctrine requires race-based discrimination!) During law school, Swedish interned at the ACLU in its Reproductive Freedom Project and interned as well at Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. Before entering law school, following her graduation from Brown University, she worked as a research assistant at the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization, where she coordinated a nationwide “sociological survey” of more than 2,400 abortion providers.

Allan Townsend:  Mr. Townsend arrived in the Section after working for eight years at a small firm in Portland, Maine, with a law practice “entirely focused on representing plaintiffs in employment cases.”  He is also a member of the left-wing National Employment Lawyers Association, whose website nicely details the exclusively liberal positions it takes on employment lawsuits, judicial nominations, legislation, arbitration, and other public policy.

Audrey Wiggins:  Ms. Wiggins comes to the Section as one of the new deputy chiefs. She spent the previous eight years at the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law where she headed its “employment discrimination project,” managed its amicus program, and directed the organization’s public policy efforts, including its fervent opposition to the nominations of Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito. Prior to that, she worked as an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR) under Mary Frances Berry.  At the USCCR, Ms. Wiggins focused on voting and police practices and was one of the authors of a ridiculous report suggesting that President Bush “stole” the 2000 election in Florida.

In 2008, she testified before the House Judiciary Committee blasting the Bush Civil Rights Division’s Housing Section for not bringing enough disparate impact housing discrimination cases. Her testimony drips with activist language, raising considerable doubt that she possesses an ability to be fair and neutral in her work in the Employment Section.

The Most Transparent Administration in History chose to redact parts of the “Education” section of Ms. Wiggins’ resume. One wonders what the administration thought was more politically embarrassing than what they left on the resume. No matter. We clearly know all we need to know about her already (although, by the way, federal law does not allow the government to redact information on a FOIA response just because it could be politically embarrassing).

For those of you keeping score at home, 71 career attorneys have so far been highlighted in this PJM series. Every one – without exception – has emphatically clear liberal and/or Democratic ties. Think of the odds of that occurring accidentally.  It didn’t.  Or to put it in terms Thomas Perez can understand, it is an overwhelming disparate impact. Of course it is more than that, too. It is part of a deliberate plan to stock the Division for decades to come with left-wing ideologues who will perpetuate a liberal agenda, irrespective of who controls the levers of government in the White House.

Much of this politicized hiring, incidentally, was engineered by former Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King, the same individual responsible for directing the outrageous dismissal of the New Black Panther Party litigation. As Christian Adams recently pointed out, King rewrote the Division’s hiring guidelines in early 2009, resulting in hiring committee members being forced to discard resumes from applicants who did not have prior employment with, or memberships in, left-wing civil rights organizations.  King could not fathom that lawyers who are simply outstanding civil litigators or who, heaven forbid, have represented defendants in civil rights cases could be qualified to work in the Division. As Christian noted, “what they lacked, of course, was the correct ideological and partisan fervor.”  To add insult to injury, after screening out the resumes with insufficiently liberal credentials, King then also ordered that applicants not be asked if they were willing to enforce the law in a race neutral manner. The results of these actions were inevitable. Hence, this PJM expose.

The public has already awakened to the mischief ongoing daily in this administration’s Justice Department, and especially in its Civil Rights Division.  Whatever reputation the Department might have once enjoyed for integrity, objectivity, and political neutrality, is shot. It can be restored, but not with this current crew. And we have more stories to tell.

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Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a former counsel to the assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department. He is the coauthor of the book “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk”.
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