Every Single One: The Politicized Hiring of Eric Holder's Disability Rights Section

PJMedia’s ongoing series investigating the politicized hiring practices within the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department has exposed a liberal litmus test that applies for all new hires. Since Attorney General Eric Holder assumed control of the Department in January 2009, he has created a monoculture composed almost exclusively of left-liberal activists. It’s clear that aspiring attorneys with moderate or mainstream legal backgrounds face a “Do Not Apply” sign at the Department -- a public department which is supposed to represent all Americans.

PJMedia needed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to extract the resumes identifying the new attorneys, and it is easy to see why the “Most Transparent Administration in History” fought so hard against their release. Indeed, their effort to populate every nook and cranny of the Division with agenda-driven activist attorneys is unprecedented.

Today’s installment of our series focuses on the Disability Rights Section, whose primary responsibility is to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The jurisdictional reach of the Section is vast; it monitors not only businesses but non-profits, local and state government, and even the practices of the federal government itself. The Section’s own website boasts that its work “affect[s] six million businesses and non-profit agencies, 80,000 units of state and local government, 49 million people with disabilities, and over 100 Federal agencies and commissions in the Executive Branch.”

The ADA is a signature achievement, and there is no doubt that it has helped to positively transform the lives of millions of Americans. I know, as I run a workshop each month for the mentally handicapped at a non-profit center outside Washington, D.C. The obligation of private sector employers and public sector municipalities to accommodate the needs of the disabled, however, must be balanced against what is financially reasonable and pragmatically appropriate. That need for balance is why an influx of partisan advocates can result in setbacks for an entire society.

The transformation within the Disability Rights Section explains why we see patently ridiculous enforcement dictates, such as threatening several prestigious universities with legal action because they took part in an experimental program to allow students to use the Amazon Kindle for textbooks.

Nine new career attorneys have been hired into the Disability Rights Section during the Obama administration. Just as is the case with each of the other sections that have been highlighted so far in this PJMedia series -- the Voting Section, the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, the Special Litigation Section, the Education Section, the Employment Litigation Section, the Coordination and Compliance and Section, and the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section -- every single one of the new Disability Rights Section lawyers easily satisfies a liberal litmus test.

Anne Langford: Ms. Langford, a $500 contributor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, joins the Section following internships with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the liberal Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Although she spent a number of years at a private law firm, she proudly notes on her resume that she was the firm’s representative to the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights (WLCCR), co-chaired multiple “Associate to Associate Campaigns” to support the WLCCR, and served as an associate trustee of the organization.

Earlier in her career, she was teaching fellow and protégé of the militant Professor Lani Guinier at Harvard, whose views were so radical that President Clinton pulled her nomination as assistant attorney general for civil rights. Although it does not touch on legal issues, she also was a senior fellow at an advocacy organization called Humanity in Action, which states that it “educates, inspires and connects a global network of students, young professionals and established leaders committed to promoting human rights, diversity and active citizenship -- in their own communities and around the world.”

Jennifer McDannell: Ms. McDannell comes to the Section after working at a large law firm that recently imploded. If she was typical of other attorneys at her firm, the extraordinary amount of time that she spent on pro bono matters there may help explain the firm’s demise. She represented both individuals and classes in lawsuits against state and federal agencies involving employment matters, police misconduct allegations, disability disputes, housing controversies, and purported unequal credit quarrels. One has to wonder if she actually had any time for paying clients.

Almost immediately after arriving at DOJ, she helped lead a lawsuit against the financially strapped city of Milton, Washington (population: 6,900). The lawsuit would force the small town to spend ten percent of its annual budget for a single bathroom in a park. The Department ignored pleas from the city that its economic plight was grounds for a reexamination of the lawsuit. Instead, the Department mandated that the municipality spend more than $350,000 to build a bathroom in the city’s main park. The per capita income for the impoverished town is $22,400.

An article in the Tacoma News Tribune described the city’s plight as follows:

An attorney for Milton pleaded with the Department of Justice in March to allow the city to tear down the shuttered restroom building and not replace it. Attorney Scott Snyder contended the city should not be forced to replace the men’s and women’s restrooms because of Milton’s “dire” economic situation. The restroom cost could reach 10 percent of Milton’s total annual budget, Snyder said. Milton has laid off workers, cut its budget and outsourced some city services in the past year to cope with declining revenues. The city projects a deficit of nearly $5 million by 2015. But the Department of Justice said the ADA requires that the city’s programs, services and activities must be accessible to people with disabilities.

One has to wonder if someone at the Justice Department has heard there is a recession underway. It appears there is no room for compromise under Eric Holder’s governance.