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

Over the last two weeks, PJMedia has published a series of articles about the hiring practices of the Civil Rights Division at the Obama Justice Department. Today’s installment relates to the Education Section: this Section has enormous power over issues such as race-based preferences in college scholarships, decades-old desegregation orders, and the federal response to racially motivated violence that plagues American schools.


Recently, the Obama administration concluded that school discipline is often racially discriminatory merely because black students are disciplined at rates higher than their overall percentage in the population. The division has launched a campaign that undermines basic American traditions of right and wrong by attacking school discipline. When you read the radical backgrounds of lawyers in the Education Section below, you’ll see why.

The PJMedia series has demonstrated that, rather incredibly, every single one of the career attorneys hired since Obama took office has a fringe leftist ideological bent and nearly all have overtly partisan pasts. Every single one. The left still doesn’t get it: they brazenly think this is perfectly acceptable. They don’t understand that attorneys who don’t have a militant agenda are also capable of enforcing federal civil rights laws, even if they represented defendants. That’s what good attorneys do, ethically. Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King rewrote hiring guidelines in 2009, resulting in hiring committee members being forced to toss any resume that did not describe a radical background.

King didn’t believe that lawyers who represented defendants in civil rights cases also have expertise in the law. What they lacked, of course, was the correct ideological and partisan fervor. And so resume after resume hit the trash can, unless the applicant was a committed leftist.

With solid reporting that is gleaned in large measure from the resumes the Department of Justice released only after being nailed with a federal lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, each of PJMedia’s articles has demonstrated with greater and greater clarity the hypocrisy of attacks on the Bush Civil Rights Division. The legacy media has, so far at least, ignored the stories. Just as was the case with the outrageous dismissal of the New Black Panther Party lawsuit. Indeed, predictable corners of the legacy media have served as government mouthpieces on this issue. The public won’t be so easily hoodwinked.

PJMedia launched its series last week with a piece by Hans von Spakovsky on the Voting Section, which I elaborated on the next day. These radicals will be enforcing election law in 2012. PJMedia Washington Bureau Chief Richard Pollock then followed with a remarkable piece on attorneys hired into the Civil Rights Division’s immigration shop, a section formally known as the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. One attorney there chained himself to a tree for days in a protest, and another was sanctioned $1.7 million by a judge in a prior stint at DOJ before being rehired. Von Spakovsky authored the latest segment, which focused on the Division’s Special Litigation Section.


Eleven new attorneys have been hired into the Education Section since President Obama entered the White House and Eric Holder took office.

Anurima Bhargava: Ms. Bhargava was hired as the new chief of the Section after working for the previous six years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Although her days were likely busy there, she managed to find time to make a $250 contribution to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. She also produced the “Jazz for Obama” concert back in October 2008.

During her tenure at the NAACP LDF she litigated cases across the country seeking to defend and expand the use of racial preferences and racial quotas in public secondary schools and universities. One of the highlights of her work was her coordination of the filing of amicus briefs and other advocacy efforts in support of two Supreme Court cases in which liberal coalitions insisted that local schools be permitted to assign public students to different schools on the basis of race. Fortunately, the Supreme Court rejected this argument as unconstitutional.

In remarks to the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues (yes, such a waste of time and money really does exist) just before joining the Justice Department, Ms. Bhargava described how imperative it was for schools to promote “integration and social cohesion” by considering race, language, immigration status, and religion in placement decisions. Imagine what your communities would be like if courts actually permitted government bureaucrats to engage in such racial engineering.

One wonders if she has even read the Constitution. This woman is running the Education Section.

When it comes to the rights of non-traditional minorities, like whites, Ms. Bhargava’s ideology of inclusion begins to crumble. Indeed, after the Bush Civil Rights Division negotiated a consent decree with Southern Illinois University to end racially discriminatory paid fellowships for which white graduates were told they were not eligible based on their skin color, Ms. Bhargava publicly blasted the decision as “hinder[ing] the legitimate efforts of colleges and universities to create equal educational opportunity.”

And some deniers still think this Justice Department will enforce the law to protect all Americans from racial discrimination.

Shortly thereafter, she was ironically honored for her aggressive battles to prevent state referendums (i.e., real democracy at work) opposing racial preferences. Once again, rights for me, but not for thee.

Her prior work experience includes a fellowship with the ACLU and service as the field director for the election campaign of ultra-liberal Democratic Congressman Steve Rothman of New Jersey. In addition, she remains a member (along with the militant Lani Guinier) of the Advisory Board of the Center for Institutional and Social Change, whose must-see website is testament to the detached dribble of left-wing activism. The group states that “through a multi-level systems approach, [its] research develops the capacity to sustain and ‘scale up’ initiatives aimed at building the ‘architecture of inclusion.’” It adds that its “collaborative projects develop frameworks, strategies, and roles designed to maximize the impact and influence of initiatives that advance full participation, innovative public problem solving, and institutional reimagination [sic!] — a set of linked goals we refer to as ‘institutional citizenship.’”


Now Ms. Bhargava gets to impose that Orwellian “institutional citizenship” on the rest of us from her new perch in the Civil Rights Division.

Torey Cummings: Ms. Cummings joined the Education Section as a trial attorney from a large private practice law firm, where she performed significant pro bono work representing terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay and death row inmates. This is a trend among new Holder DOJ employees. Never mind the fact every detainee can obtain a highly qualified federal public defender, these attorneys rushed to represent America’s enemies for free. She previously worked as a staff attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and as a project assistant at the Wellesley College Centers for Women, where she was able to utilize her social work degree.

Tamica Daniel: Ms. Daniel comes to the Section only a year out of Georgetown’s law school, where she was the diversity committee chair of the law review, volunteered with the ACLU’s Innocence Project, and participated in the Institute for Public Representation Clinic. For those in the real world, diversity committees are groups set up to hector for race-based outcomes in hiring employees and student matters. It is an entity with close cousins in South Africa’s apartheid regime and other dark eras in history.

While working on her law degree, she also attended Georgetown’s Public Policy Institute and wrote her master’s thesis on how race and income desegregation are responsible for minorities’ low educational attainment in Seattle public schools. During one law school summer, she interned at the left-wing Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs under the direction of Joseph Rich, a partisan activist who formerly was the chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section. She spent another summer interning at the liberal Poverty and Race Research Action Council, where she devoted most of her time providing research support for a paper on the constitutionality of race-conscious housing policies. She found time as well to author a law review article arguing for greater use of disparate impact theories in fair housing litigation.

The Civil Rights Division’s FOIA shop curiously redacted all of Ms. Daniel’s “community service and involvement” on her resume. In light of her employment experience, one can only imagine what she was up to in her spare time.

Amanda Downs: Ms. Downs joined the Section from the Maryland Public Defender’s Office, where she worked since graduating law school. While a law student, she also interned at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Her other activities on her resume were redacted by DOJ.

We do know, however, that she was the Division attorney who commenced a ridiculous lawsuit last year against the Mohawk Central School District in New York on behalf of two transvestite students, one of whom liked to wear a pink wig and make-up and another who favored wigs and stiletto heels. When the male students were told to remove their distracting ensembles in light of the governing dress code, Ms. Downs and her colleagues stepped in, claiming that the school district had engaged in federal sex discrimination. Never mind that, as has been written before, the courts have flatly rejected the notion that laws banning discrimination based on gender also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. For Ms. Downs and her new colleagues, legal precedent is a mere inconvenience. And therein lies the central danger in hiring militants instead of attorneys who will respect legal precedent.


The militants who have been hired seek to move the law. This DOJ won’t hire people who simply seek to enforce the law.

Thomas Falkinburg: After spending ten years investigating purported civil rights violations at Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights — a notorious hotbed of liberal activism — Mr. Falkinburg transferred to the Justice Department’s Education Section once President Obama took office. This wasn’t the first time he sought to leave the Department of Education. He had earlier applied for an FBI Intelligence Analyst position but was upset because the salary he allegedly was offered didn’t match his inflated Department of Education compensation. So what did the aggrieved left-wing bureaucrat do? He sued, of course.

He commenced a federal action in the Northern District of Georgia, claiming that the FBI had improperly revoked a supposed job offer after he complained about the salary terms. Proceeding without an attorney, he frivolously sought a writ of mandamus asking the court to order FBI Director Robert Mueller to appoint him as an Intelligence Analyst at GS-13, Step 5. Not amused by the legally silly request, the court granted the government’s motion to dismiss. Mr. Falkinburg wasted more of the court’s resources with a motion for reconsideration, but it was promptly denied as well.

An attorney who considers a government job an entitlement? Perfect for the Civil Rights Division. But Eric Holder should be on alert if he dares withhold any of Mr. Falkinburg’s civil service raises.

Melissa Michaud: Ms. Michaud was hired into the Education Section as part of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Honors Program, which brings young attorneys straight to the Department of Justice from law school or judicial clerkships. And it is easy to see why. Ms. Michaud worked during law school for Legal Aid of North Carolina, was a member of the Carolina Public Interest Law Organization, served as the Projects Coordinator for the University of North Carolina Pro Bono Board, and interned at the EEOC. She also spent three years with Teach for America.

Nicholas Murphy: Mr. Murphy is another hire from Eric Holder’s Honors Program at DOJ, fresh out of a federal judicial clerkship with a liberal Clinton appointee in Philadelphia. While a law student, Mr. Murphy interned at the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, where he focused on the organization’s efforts to restore the voting rights of convicted felons. He also interned for the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn and the Public Defender’s Service in Washington, served as a research assistant at the general counsel’s office at Teach for America, and volunteered with the Prisoner’s Legal Assistance Project. Meanwhile, his self-drafted personal statement at his law school’s alumni website highlighted his partisan political ambitions. Just what we need: another political activist bureaucrat biding his time in the federal civil service.

Kathleen Schleeter: Holder’s Honors Program has also brought Ms. Schleeter to the Education Section. During law school, she worked as a Program Assistant for the National Women’s Health Network, which identifies as its primary mission “ensuring that women have self-determination in all aspects of their reproductive and sexual health” (read: promoting abortions); indeed, the organization’s executive director and policy director are both former senior staffers at the National Abortion Rights Action League. Ms. Schleeter also served on the editorial board of the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law and as president of the Public Interest Law Association.


Mehgan Sidhu: Ms. Sidhu worked for approximately four years at a plaintiff’s civil rights firm in Baltimore before joining the Education Section. During law school, she clerked for the ACLU of Maryland, interned at the Children’s Defense Fund (the aggressively liberal organization headed by Hillary Clinton pal Marian Wright Edelman), and participated in the AIDS and Child Welfare Clinic. Any school district targeted by Ms. Sidhu that thinks it is going to receive a fair and balanced investigation is kidding itself.

Joseph Wardenski: Like his new colleagues, Mr. Wardenski, a contributor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, has a rich activist background that will serve him well in this administration’s Civil Rights Division. Although he worked very briefly as an associate at a large law firm in New York, where he seemed to spend an extraordinary amount of time on pro bono criminal defense and voting rights matters, Mr. Wardenski cut his legal teeth as an intern at the NAACP LDF. There he helped research and draft memoranda designed to give convicted felons the right to vote and to ensure that public schools could racially engineer the assignments of students from one location to another.  He previously interned as well at the Urban Justice Center, a left-wing advocacy organization that seeks to monitor and report on what it characterizes as “economic human rights violations” in the United States.

On his resume, Mr. Wardenski proudly notes his service as president of the Princeton College Democrats, co-chair of “OUTLaw” (the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender association) at Northwestern University Law School, and education policy director for an uber-liberal Colorado politician (Jared Polis) who is now a Democratic congressman and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He also highlights the law review article he authored in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology in which he argued that the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas sodomy decision must be interpreted to include rights for teenage homosexuals. He does not, however, reference another public report he drafted on behalf of a group called “Gay Men’s Health Crisis” which criticized the FDA’s prohibition on blood donations from certain at-risk homosexual groups.

Mr. Wardenski now spends much of his time as one of the Justice Department’s representatives on the Steering Committee of the Obama administration’s “Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention” campaign. As both Peter Kirsanow of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity recently pointed out, the legal predicate for this federal response to bullying is extremely weak. But as we have seen time and again from Eric Holder’s Justice Department, the law is often little more than a distraction.


Ryan Wilson: Rounding out the Education Section’s new crop of attorneys is Mr. Wilson. Prior to joining the Civil Rights Division, he labored as a staff attorney for an organization called Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Ohio, which “promote[s] systemic change on behalf of individuals and groups of low-income people in the areas of civil rights and poverty law” by “seek[ing] to change policy, laws, and regulations at local and state levels.” Before that, he was an attorney at Legal Aid of Western Ohio in its Homelessness Prevention Project.

During law school, he worked as a research fellow at the ultra-liberal Center for Civil Rights and as a student attorney at the University of North Carolina Juvenile Justice Clinic. Meanwhile, in his undergraduate days, he was president of the University of North Carolina’s chapter of the NAACP, a member of the Young Democrats, and a participant in the “Black Student Movement.”

Just as is true of the new career attorneys hired into every other Section of the Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, every single one of these new civil servants — without exception — is an undeniable liberal. Not a one is even apolitical, let alone conservative.

None of this is to suggest that liberals should be precluded from working in the Division. Indeed, the Bush administration hired attorneys all across the political spectrum, including some of the most fervent left-wing ideologues who now occupy the leadership positions in many of the Sections across the Division. At a certain point, though, the patently ridiculous claims by Eric Holder and his subordinates that no ideological litmus test is being employed in hiring are no longer going to pass the laugh test, even if they say so under oath before Congress, and even with their most ardent supporters in the media. Capitol Hill is going to take notice. Perhaps even the Inspector General’s Office, too, although that office’s ability to produce a politically balanced report is yet to be seen. But the days of Eric Holder being able to lie to the public with impunity are coming to an end.

Here’s the good news. With the budget disaster facing the next (Republican) president, these recently hired radicals may not yet have vested. The administration can implement a reduction in force (RIF) and walk the least senior lawyers right out the door.


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