Every Single One: The Politicized Hiring of Eric Holder’s Special Litigation Section
All 23 new hires to the Justice Department's Special Litigation office have far-left resumes — which were only released following a PJM lawsuit. (This is the fourth in a series of articles about the Justice Department's hiring practices since President Obama took office. Read parts one, two, and three.)
August 16, 2011 - 12:00 am
Rashida Ogletree: The daughter of Obama pal and Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree, Ms. Ogletree joined the Section after working as a staff attorney at the District of Columbia Public Defender’s Office. Before that, she had interned at the Legal Action Center, which describes itself as “the only non-profit law and policy organization in the United States whose sole mission is to fight discrimination against people with histories of addiction, HIV/AIDS, or criminal records, and to advocate for sound public policies in these areas.” She also participated in the Brennan Center for Public Policy Advocacy Clinic, where she worked on efforts to give voting rights to convicted felons. Leaving no activist stone unturned, she preceded those activities with internships at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and the EEOC, as well as a gig as the Education and Enforcement Coordinator for the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. And to top it all off, she served as an editor of the “progressive” Review of Law and Social Change at NYU Law School.
Sergio Perez: Mr. Perez is another attorney fresh out of law school. As of the date this article was drafted, he continued to boast on his Facebook page of his active role in Junta for Progressive Action, an organization that promotes the rights of illegal aliens in the United States. From the group’s website:
Junta has worked with Unidad Latina to promote rights for the undocumented, encouraging [a Connecticut mayor] to issue a municipal identity card. … Immigrant rights groups, such as Fair Haven-based Junta for Progressive Action, are working with the city’s police department to establish a policy that would forbid police from asking about the legal status of immigrants who are crime victims or turning over any such information to federal immigration authorities.
Mr. Perez also was the student director of Yale Law School’s Legal Services for Immigrant Communities Clinic and the co-director of the school’s Human Rights Project. He clerked one summer at a large law firm, but appears to have spent all of his time there working on a habeas corpus petition on behalf of a death-row inmate in Louisiana.
Upon arriving in the Civil Rights Division, Mr. Perez began working on the Special Litigation Section’s investigation (or, as I have previously written at length, harassment) of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County (Ariz.) Detention Facility because of the Sheriff’s participation in the federal 287(g) program. His team leader on the case is none other than Avner Shapiro, another ideological attorney whose wife is Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes, who has made it clear to Voting Section employees that she does not believe in the race-neutral enforcement of civil rights laws. If Perez isn’t already radicalized, he soon will be after working with Shapiro.
Catherine Pugh: When it comes to liberal activists, Ms. Pugh easily fits the bill. Arriving in the Section straight from the California Western School of Law, she appears to be on a long-term crusade to harass law enforcement and exact some sort of revenge for unspecified grievances. Upon winning a California Bar Foundation scholarship, she proclaimed:
I have worked in the legal industry as long as I have worked — most recently in prisons throughout the state — and I fully intend to apply my law degree to policing abuses of public trust.
The mission started as early as her undergraduate days at Howard University, where she wrote her senior thesis on “The Cumulative Effect of Race in Arrest, Charging, Trial, and Sentencing.”
During law school, Pugh worked as a research assistant at the California Innocence Project and served as director of the Amity Foundation, which provides oversight for a new-age drug treatment center and analyzes data on the treatment of underrepresented populations. She also won a Weiner Scholarship, which is awarded to a student who “shows sensitivity and concern with human rights and the fair administration of justice.”
(Amusingly, her law school did a write-up on her in which it claimed that she “was chosen as one of four people in the nation to intern in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.” This statement is preposterously false.)
Lori Rifkin: Ms. Rifkin’s resume must have had the new “non-political” hiring committee in the Civil Rights Division salivating with excitement. She worked as an attorney at the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center in San Francisco and a small plaintiff’s firm in the same city litigating class action lawsuits on behalf of state prison inmates. She also had multiple stints of employment with the ACLU, serving as a staff attorney in Los Angeles and Hartford and an intern in New York. Although her activities covered the gamut there, she seemed to concentrate on prisoners’ rights litigation and gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender advocacy. In one of her more odd cases at the ACLU, she sued the City of Santa Barbara, claiming that the city’s decision to operate a homeless shelter only during the winter months violated the constitutional rights of the homeless.
Prior to her time with the ACLU, Ms. Rifkin clerked at the Southern Poverty Law Center, participated in the liberal Brennan Center for Public Policy Advocacy Clinic, and led a workshop at the Yale Law School Rebellious Lawyering Conference, where she protested the JAG Corps recruiting on the law school campus. She also authored a real page-turner of an article in the Journal of Lesbian Studies entitled: “The Suit Suits Whom? Lesbian-Gender, Female Masculinity, and Women-in-Suits.” She proudly notes on her resume that this article was co-published simultaneously in a book entitled Femme/Butch: New Considerations of the Way We Want to Go.
Michael Songer: Mr.Songer, a $200 contributor to the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, worked at a large Washington law firm. His resume highlights his pro bono work there on Sossamon v. Texas, which his firm lost in the Supreme Court. They argued unsuccessfully in Sossamon that states waived their sovereign immunity against private lawsuits filed by prison inmates seeking money damages merely because they accepted federal funds. During law school, he worked for the Capital Jury Project, where he conducted research against capital punishment. He also wrote a law review article on “The Effect of Race, Gender, and Location on Prosecutorial Decisions to Seek the Death Penalty in South Carolina,” in which he suggests that prosecutors seek the death penalty in a racially discriminatory manner.
Although his internship for former Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings is listed on his resume, the Civil Rights Division opted to redact the rest of his activities.