Musings on Events in U.S. Immigration Court, Immigration Law, Sports, and Other Random Topics by Retired United States Immigration Judge (Arlington, Virginia) and former Chairman of the Board of Immigration Appeals Paul Wickham Schmidt. To see my complete professional bio, just click on the link below.
Category: Leadership Conference On Civil And Human Rights
“. . . . So why don’t people correct these misconceptions? One reason is that people are loath to scrutinize statements that confirm what they already believe. People are particularly receptive to believe statements from trusted sources (the departments of Justice and Homeland Security, if not the president). If people already believe that immigrants pose a threat, they are unlikely to probe whether the White House is phrasing its statistics appropriately.
Confusing the inverse probabilities of terrorist acts and foreign-born individuals is not merely an academic issue. Proponents of restrictive immigration polices continue to use fear-based, inverse fallacy tactics. During the recent government shutdown, Trump released an ad promising to “fix our border and keep our families safe,” adding, “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
Citing that “3 in 4” terrorists are foreign born implies, erroneously, that excluding the foreign born would substantially reduce a large threat to this country. But at what cost? How many of the 41 million lives of immigrants and refugees should be ruined to further reduce an already minuscule threat? Let’s not use statistical lies to destroy lives.”
Read the complete article at the link.
Under “Gonzo” the DOJ has become one of the leading purveyors of false, distorted, or otherwise misrepresented data to promote White Nationalism and unfairly target immigrants and ethnic groups. He couldn’t even get his story straight before Congress. There is good reason to disbelieve or be skeptical of everything coming out of Gonzo’s mouth and the DOJ.
And, it’s not just my observation. Gonzo consistently fails “Fact Checker” analyses on his pejorative statements about immigration and law enforcement. He’s just “not credible.” That”s a major problem for him, the DOJ, and our country.
“All he had were his words and the power of truth,” Sessions said. “ . . . His message, his life and his death changed hearts and minds. Those changed souls then changed the laws of this land.”
But civil rights leaders criticized Sessions’s remarks, made at a time, they said, when the Justice Department is rolling back efforts to promote civil and voting rights.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions called Tuesday for Justice Department employees to “remember, celebrate and act” in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
“It is beyond ironic for Jeff Sessions to celebrate the architecture of civil rights protections inspired by Dr. King and other leaders as he works to tear down these very protections,” said Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“Make no mistake,” Gupta said. “If Dr. King were alive today, he would be protesting outside of Jeff Sessions’s office.”
Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said that in the past year, the Justice Department under Sessions has taken action to “obstruct and reverse civil rights enforcement.”
She and others point to a new policy that calls for federal prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges even if that might mean minority defendants face stiff, mandatory-minimum penalties. Sessions has defended President Trump’s travel ban and threatened to take away funding from cities with policies he considers too lenient toward undocumented immigrants. The department’s new guidance and stances on voting rights and LGBT issues also might disenfranchise minorities and poor people, civil rights advocates say.
Justice officials say that Sessions’s actions reflect an aggressive, by-the-book interpretation of federal law and that his policies are geared toward fighting violent crime and drug trafficking.”
Read the complete article at the above link.
Absurd and insulting! Actions speak louder than words, Gonzo! Every day that you spend in office mocks our Constitution, the rule of law, human decency, and the legacy of MLK and others who fought for racial and social equality and social justice under the law.
I have no doubt that if Dr. King were alive today, he and his followers would be on your and Trump’s “hit list.” Indeed, peacefully but forcefully standing up to and shaming tone-deaf, White Nationalist, racially challenged politicos like you, who lived in the past and inhibited America’s future with their racism, was one of the defining marks of MLK’s life!
How do things like increasing civil immigration detention, building the “New American Gulag,” stripping unaccompanied children of their rights to an Immigration Court hearing, mindlessly attacking so-called “sanctuary cities,” mocking hard-working pro bono immigration attorneys and their efforts, reducing the number of refugees, excluding Muslims, building a wall, stripping protections from Dreamers, reducing legal immigration, favoring White immigrants, and spreading false narratives about Latino migrants and crime “honor” the legacy of Dr. King?
Indeed, the “Sanctuary Cities Movement” appears to have a direct historical connection to King’s non-violent civil disobedience aimed at the enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws. Much as today, those on the “wrong side of history” wrapped themselves in hypocritical bogus “rule of law” arguments as they mocked and violated the civil rights of African Americans.
At some point, America needs and deserves a real Attorney General, one who recognizes and fights for the rights of everyone in America, including minorities, the poor, the most vulnerable, and the so-called undocumented population, who, contrary to your actions and rhetoric, are entitled to full Due Process of law under our Constitution. Imagine how a real Attorney General, one like say Vanita Gupta, might act.Now that would truly honor Dr. King’s memory.
“Lisa Foster is a retired California Superior Court judge, co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center and former director of the Office for Access to Justice in the Justice Department.
Lorenzo Brown, a 58-year-old disabled resident of Montgomery, Ala., was arrested at his boardinghouse in 2014 for failure to pay fines and fees imposed for traffic tickets. Brown, whose sole source of income was a Social Security disability check, was kept in jail for three days before he was brought to court. There, the judge told him he could be released if he paid $1,400 — half of what he owed and twice the amount of his monthly disability check. Because he didn’t have that much money, the judge sentenced him to serve 44 days in jail, repaying his debt at the rate of $50 per day.
Brown is not alone. Across the country, millions of people — including children — are charged a fine as punishment for traffic, misdemeanor and felony offenses and then taxed with fees used to fund the justice system and other government services. In California, the fine for running a stop sign is $100, but the additional fees — imposed to pay for everything from court operations to emergency medical services — can raise the total cost of the ticket to a staggering $490.
It’s a tax on justice that harms poor people of all races and people of color disproportionately, entrenching poverty and undermining confidence in our justice system. Yet the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions retracted two important legal guidanceslast month that were intended to help courts reform abusive practices.
The decision is unconscionable. As was the case with Brown, fines and fees are often enforced in ways that blatantly violate the Constitution. People who cannot afford to immediately pay the full amount charged face additional fees, suspension of their driver’s and vocational licenses, loss of voting rights and, far too frequently, arrest and jail. Since 1983, however, the Supreme Court has heldthat it is unconstitutional to punish a person “solely because he lacks funds to pay a fine.”
Yet courts across the country have ignored that unequivocal command. Practices that unquestionably violate the Constitution have become routine and rarely — if ever — questioned or appealed.
That’s why the Justice Department provided legal guidance to state courts on the enforcement of fines and fees in March 2016 and an advisory regarding fines and fees imposed on children in early January 2017. Both reminded courts of established constitutional principles. They were well-received and sparked meaningful reform. Judges and court administrators relied on the guidance and advisory to change court procedures; lawyers cited the guidance to successfully challenge egregious collection practices; and advocates used both to lobby for legislative reforms.
Apparently, Sessions’s Justice Department does not believe it has a role in ensuring that the Constitution is enforced in state and local courts. The attorney general’s narrow and shortsighted interpretation of his department’s mandate forsakes leadership on a critical national issue and abandons the most vulnerable among us.
It’s also wrong. The Justice Department routinely asserts its interpretation of the Constitution pursuant to both explicit statutory authority and long-standing tradition. It does so formally, for example, in amicus briefs and statements of interest filed in state and federal courts.
I have a vested interest in this issue. I co-wrote the guidance with Vanita Gupta, then head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the advisory with Karol Mason, then head of the Office of Justice Programs. But my position is neither ideological nor partisan. The American Legislative Exchange Council, the Charles Koch Institute and the R Street Institute — all conservative organizations — have strongly opposed such fines and fees. In one resolution, ALEC noted that the practices can lead to “unnecessary incarceration” and encourage law enforcement to make decisions “on grounds other than public safety while undermining public confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system.”
Moreover, red and blue states alike have reformed fine and fee collection practices. Mississippi and California recently ended their long-standing practice of suspending the driver’s licenses of people who cannot afford to pay fines and fees. Texas recently enacted legislation requiring judges to assess whether a person can afford to pay his or her fines and fees before being punished for nonpayment. Similar legislation is pending in Massachusetts.
Some states will act to fill the vacuum left by Sessions and the Justice Department. But the guarantees of the Constitution do not depend on where one lives in the United States. The Constitution must be upheld for every person in every courthouse in the country. To rescind the guidance on fines and fees is to condone unconstitutional conduct and tell millions of Americans that the Justice Department refuses to live up to its name.”
Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions has made a career out of protecting the rights of (mostly rich and powerful) White guys while ignoring, stomping on, or trashing the rights of minorities and other vulnerable populations who (contrary to Sessions’s White Nationalist agenda) are also entitled to Constitutional protections. The latter group actually includes so-called undocumented individuals in the U.S. who routinely are denied their full due process rights in Sessions’s “captive” U.S. Immigration Court system that is now being operated as a “whistle-stop on the deportation express” — essentially an adjunct of DHS Enforcement.
Among other things, he lied about under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings, Gonzo falsely claimed that he could get beyond his highly partisan representation of Alabama in the Senate and be Attorney General for all the people. That appears to be no more credible than his gratuitous claims that he had no knowledge of anything having to do with Russia.
At the DOJ, Gonzo has continued to represent only the views of the rather small minority of voters who endorse his racist, White Nationalist, anti-gay agenda. At some point, Russia investigation or not, America needs a real Attorney General who respects the office, our Constitution, and the rights of all persons (including the undocumented) present in the United States of America.
Responding to several recent “hate speeches” by Attorney General Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions, EOIR issued a new memorandum basically telling U.S. immigration Judges to revise their thinking and look for any way possible to “shaft” unaccompanied minors fleeing for their lives and asserting claims for protection under U.S. laws.
The memorandum from Chief U.S. mmigration Judge Marybeth Keller, dated Dec. 21, 2017, is available in full at this link:
However, because it is drafted in dense bureaucratic doublespeak with a just a touch of “lip service” to the law, I will give you the “high points” as they would appear to most Immigration Judges:
The Attorney General hates UACS, and so should you if you want to keep your job.
While this Administration works on its announced plans to strip UACS of all statutory and Constitutional rights, you must always look for ways to effectively eliminate such “false rights” administratively in advance of any changes in the law.
Always look for ways to find that someone previously determined by DHS or the ORR to be a “UAC” is no longer, or never should have been, entitled to UAC benefits.
The “best interests of the child” should NOT be an important consideration in an Immigration Court proceeding involving a UAC.
Conversely, the “best interests of the Administration” should generally be given conclusive weight.
Never let considerations of human empathy, misplaced kindness, false compassion, common sense, decency, or any other human emotion lead you to give a break or the benefit of the doubt to a UAC.
Is is permissible, however, to create a false sense of informality and friendliness in your courtroom, so long as it doesn’t result in a grant of any type of protection or relief to the UAC. (Indeed, lulling a UAC into a false sense of comfort or security can be an effective strategy for insuring that he or she will not attempt to find a lawyer and will sign away or waive any rights.)
Remember that no matter how young, immature, discombobulated, confused, inarticulate, traumatized, or scared a UAC might be, he or she is NEVER entitled to appointed counsel or to any meaningful help from you in stating or supporting a claim for protection.
While all DHS requests should generally be treated as “priorities,” the only request from a UAC or his or her representative that should receive “priority” consideration is a request for immediate voluntary departure from the US. (You should never hesitate to grant such a request even if it appears to be the product of duress or against the UAC’s best interests.)
A good way to overcome the unfortunate tendency of some reviewing courts to find testimony of UACS “credible”” is to conclude that even if credible and facially sufficient to establish a claim for relief, the UAC’S testimony is “too generalized” or “not sufficiently detailed” (or any other kind of meaningless legal jargon you might come up with) to satisfy the “burden of proof” for protection.
Your main responsibility as an Immigration Judge, and the one for which you will be held accountable, is to ferret out and report fraud, not to insure fairness or due process for the UAC.
In discharging your duties as an Immigration Judge, you must always give primacy to the enforcement priorities of the Administration (including the overriding objective of deterrence and how it is advanced by REMOVAl orders, not relief) and the DHS over any legal claims advanced by a UAC.
You should presume that all UACS and particularly any with “dirty” attorneys representing them are “fraudsters” unless and until otherwise established beyond a reasonable doubt.
While it is permissible to present yourself to the public, and particularly to any reviewing courts Congressional, or media representatives as a “judge of a full due process court,” for all other purposes, you should always remember that you are a mere subordinate of the Attorney General, sworn to carry out his policies, and never, under any circumstances, should you consider yourself to be a “real judge” exercising independent judgement.
If you have any questions about this memorandum, please consult your ACIJ (who is specially trained to help you maximize final removals orders) rather than your conscience.
Remember: “When In Doubt, Kick ‘Em Out!”
There was a time in the (seemingly now distant) past when children and other vulnerable individuals were considered appropriate for “special humanitarian consideration,” and treatment. Now, they are “special targets” for Gonzo and his White Nationalist storm troopers: “Fish in a barrel,” “easy numbers, “low hanging fruit,” “roadkill.”
I was particularly impressed (not necessarily favorably) by the straightforward exhortation for the Immigration Court to establish itself as perhaps the only court in the America where the widely accepted principle of “the best interests of the child” is specifically to be given short shrift.
On the other hand, you should think about the possibility that some day you’ll get the question “What did you do during Trump’s War on America, Mommy (or Daddy)?” Do you really want to say: “I stood by and watched Gonzo Apocalypto abuse, harm, and in some cases kill, helpless children?” We all have choices to make!
Maria’s always “on top” of the almost daily examples of cruel, intentionally inhumane, unconstitutional, wasteful “Gonzo” Enforcement by the Trump regime. Here is some of what she reports on the deadly conditions in “NAG:”
“The inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security has criticized several immigration detention facilities for having spoiled and moldy food and inadequate medical care, and for inappropriate treatment of detainees, such as locking down a detainee for sharing coffee and interfering with Muslims’ prayer times.
Acting Inspector General John V. Kelly, who took over Dec. 1, said the watchdog agency identified problems at four detention centers during recent, unannounced visits to five facilities. The Dec. 11 report , released Thursday, said the flaws “undermine the protection of detainees’ rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment.”
“Staff did not always treat detainees respectfully and professionally, and some facilities may have misused segregation,” the report found, adding that observers found “potentially unsafe and unhealthy detention conditions.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails tens of thousands of immigrants for civil immigration violations, holding them until they are deported or released in the United States. The jails are not supposed to be punitive, according to the report.
ICE concurred with the inspector general’s findings and said it is taking action to fix the problems, some of which have already been addressed.
“Based on multi-layered, rigorous inspections and oversight programs, ICE is confident in conditions and high standards of care at its detention facilities,” the agency said in a statement. “To ensure the safety and well-being of those in our custody, we work regularly with contracted consultants and a variety of external stakeholders to review and improve detention conditions at ICE facilities.”
The Office of Inspector General said it launched the surprise inspections after receiving complaints from immigrant advocacy groups and on its hotline about treatment of detainees. The inspectors also interviewed staff members and detainees and examined records.
Advocates for immigrants said the report reaffirmed their long-standing calls for the detention facilities to be closed. Advocates have complained about reports of physical and sexual assaults, deaths in detention and other concerns for years under past presidents — and say their worries are increasing under President Trump.
Trump has pledged to dramatically increase deportations and is seeking congressional approval for more than 51,000 detention beds this fiscal year, up from about 30,000 under President Barack Obama.
Trump’s pick for the permanent director of ICE, Thomas D. Homan, previously ran the ICE detention system.
“The realities documented by the OIG inspectors, and many more, are endemic to the entire detention system,” Mary Small, policy director at Detention Watch Network, a nonprofit group that monitors immigration detention, said in a statement. “ICE has proven time and time again to be incapable of meeting basic standards for humane treatment.”
In a statement, Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of Project South, in Atlanta, cited the death in May of Jean Jimenez-Joseph. The 27-year-old Panamanian national was held in solitary confinement for 19 days at the Stewart Detention Center in rural Georgia, according to Project South.
Shahshahani said his death “should have served as a final wake-up call and resulted in the immediate closure of the facility.”
The Administration tries to hide, obscure, cover up, and bureaucratize what’s happening in the NAG. But, thanks to courageous reporters like Maria, the truth isn’t going to be suppressed. Read the rest of Maria’s report at the link.
Is this YOUR America? Is this the America you want YOUR children and grandchildren to read about and inherit?
Gee whiz, what were my parents and grandparents doing while neo-Nazis were invading the government and recreating the “Fourth Reich?”
And, when are the Article III Courts going to get some backbone to go with their lifetime sinicure and stand up for the Constitution and human decency before it’s too late? When good people stand by and do nothing, tyrants like Trump, Sessions, Homan, Bannon, and their corrupt supporters will have their way!
Tell your legislators:
NO to Tom Homan as ICE Director;
NO to funding for the NAG;
NO to funding DOJ’s corrupt defense of the NAG and Gonzo Immigration Enforcement;
NO to additional unneeded DHS Enforcement agents;
YES to legislative and criminal investigations of the unconstitutional activities of Gonzo, Nielsen, Homan, and their cronies and the human rights abuses they are knowingly creating by misusing the immigration laws;
YES to “Dreamer Relief” with “no strings attached;”
YES to immigration reform that legalizes law-abiding residents already here and provides additional legal visas for the future to end the “false criminalization” of needed workers and refugees!
Stand up for America as a Nation of Immigrants — Stand up for human decency — Stand against Trump, Nielsen, Sessions, Homan, Bannon, Miller and the other neo-Nazis promoting the NAG!
“For more than five hours, Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat in a hearing room on Capitol Hill this month, fending off inquiries on Washington’s two favorite topics: President Trump and Russia.
But legislators spent little time asking Sessions about the dramatic and controversial changes in policy he has made since taking over the top law enforcement job in the United States nine months ago.
From his crackdown on illegal immigration to his reversal of Obama administration policies on criminal justice and policing, Sessions is methodically reshaping the Justice Department to reflect his nationalist ideology and hard-line views — moves drawing comparatively less public scrutiny than the ongoing investigations into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.
Sessions has implemented a new charging and sentencing policy that calls for prosecutors to pursue the most serious charges possible, even if that might meanminority defendants face stiff, mandatory minimum penalties. He has defended the president’s travel ban and tried to strip funding from cities with policies he considers too friendly toward undocumented immigrants.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Nov. 14. (Alex Brandon/AP)
Sessions has even adjusted the department’s legal stances in cases involving voting rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in a way that advocates warn might disenfranchise poor minorities and give certain religious people a license to discriminate.
Supporters and critics say the attorney general has been among the most effective of the Cabinet secretaries — implementing Trump’s conservative policy agenda even as the president publicly and privately toys with firing him over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case.
. . . .
In meetings with top Justice Department officials about terrorist suspects, Sessions often has a particular question: Where is the person from? When officials tell him a suspect was born and lives in the United States, he typically has a follow-up: To what country does his family trace its lineage?
While there are reasons to want to know that information, some officials familiar with the inquiries said the questions struck them as revealing that Sessions harbors an innate suspicion about people from certain ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Sarah Isgur Flores, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said in a statement, “The Attorney General asks lots of relevant questions in these classified briefings.”
Sessions, unlike past attorneys general, has been especially aggressive on immigration. He served as the public face of the administration’s rolling back of a program that granted a reprieve from deportation to people who had come here without documentation as children, and he directed federal prosecutors to make illegal-immigration cases a higher priority. The attorney general has long held the view that the United States should even reduce the number of those immigrating here legally.
In an interview with Breitbart News in 2015, then-Sen. Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke favorably of a 1924 law that excluded all immigrants from Asia and set strict caps on others.
“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Sessions said. “We then assimilated through 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America.”
Vanita Gupta, the head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division in the Obama administration who now works as chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Sessions seems to harbor an “unwillingness to recognize the history of this country is rooted in immigration.”
“On issue after issue, it’s very easy to see what his worldview is of what this country is and who belongs in this country,” she said, adding that his view is “distinctly anti-immigrant.”
Those on the other side of the aisle, however, say they welcome the changes Sessions has made at the Justice Department.
Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for moderating levels of immigration, said she would give the attorney general an “A-plus” for his work in the area, especially for his crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” his push to hire more immigration judges and his focus on the MS-13 gang.
“He was able to hit the ground running because he has so much expertise already in immigration enforcement and related public safety issues and the constitutional issues, so he’s accomplished a lot in a very short time,” Vaughan said.”
Read the compete article, which deals with much more than immigration, at the link.
Immigrants, refugees, immigration advocates, and career civil servants involved in immigration at the DOJ seems to be “star-crossed.” After decades of relative indifference to the importance of immigration, an Attorney General finally shows up who makes it his highest priority.
Only problem is that he’s a committed xenophobe and White Nationalist whose largely false and exaggerated narrative on immigration comes right from the alt-right restrictionist playbook and harks back to the Jim Crow era of the American South — only this time with Hispanics and Muslims as the primary targets.
In any “normal” American business, obsession with tracing back lineage of someone’s family would be prima facie evidence of prohibited “national origins discrimination.” But, for Gonzo, it’s just another day at the office.
Notwithstanding his less than stellar performances before Congress and that he’s fallen off Trump’s “A-Team” (notwithstanding probably doing more to deconstruct the Constitution and “Good Government” than any other cabinet officer), he’s unlikely to be going anywhere soon. So the damage will continue to add up for the foreseeable future. It’s not like Senator Liz Warren and others didn’t try to warn America about this dude!
Meanwhile, perhaps not to be outdone, over at the U.S. State Department, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is proceeding to deconstruct the Career Foreign Service and reduce the Stated Department and our Diplomatic Corps to “administrative roadkill.” You can read about that debacle in this NY Times article:
“The first day of the Supreme Court’s new term on Monday will feature a rare legal showdown: The Justice Department will face off against another federal agency. It’s unusual for the Justice Department, representing the United States government, to disagree with an executive agency, much less send its top lawyer to try to defeat that agency before the Supreme Court—but it’s only the first of several such confrontations in the Trump administration.
There are currently three major cases in which the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a position in opposition to another executive agency. The nation’s top court will referee one of these disagreements on Monday, and the other two are likely to reach the Supreme Court next year. The situation is partially explained by politics: The department is opposing agencies whose missions—protecting the interests of workers and consumers—are less likely to align with the goals of a conservative administration. But it’s also a signal of how aggressive the Justice Department plans to be in pursing its conservative agenda through the courts.
“It’s highly unusual to have two lawyers, both representing the federal government, taking opposite positions in a court,” says Deepak Gupta, an appellate lawyer who has filed briefs in two of the cases opposing the Justice Department’s positions. “The fact that it’s happening in multiple instances across a broad range of issues is really remarkable and is a sign of how aggressively the Trump administration is flipping positions on a broad range of issues.”
The case going before the court on Monday concerns workers’ right to collective action. The other two will decide whether the creation of the agency in charge of protecting consumers violates the Constitution and whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees from being fired because of their sexual orientation. The Justice Department’s willingness to take on other agencies is even more notable because in two of the cases, the department’s top lawyers had to change the department’s position in order to oppose the agencies. Such changes are generally not made without serious deliberation and restraint because the department is expected to have a consistent position on legal issues.
“You would expect the justices to perhaps want to look a little bit more closely at precisely what the government’s position is,” says Jonathan Adler, a professor of constitutional and administrative law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, “to make sure that any change is in fact well considered and not something that’s being done cavalierly or superficially.”
On Monday, the US solicitor general, a Republican lawyer named Noel Francisco who was confirmed by the Senate earlier this month, will argue against the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), whichhis office was representing until a few months ago. Under President Barack Obama, the solicitor general prepared to represent the NLRB, the federal agency charged with protecting workers from unfair labor practices, before the Supreme Court. But in June, the solicitor general’s office switched sides. “After the change in administration, the Office reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion,” the office announced in a brief. The NLRB would now need to represent itself, and the solicitor general would appear in court on the other side. Labor advocatessay they have to go back to the Reagan administration to find an analogous situation, in which a new administration changed its position before the Supreme Court for what appeared to be largely political reasons.
“This is not normal, even in a change of administration,” says Celine McNicholas, a labor attorney at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, and a former counsel at the NLRB. Politics always affect agencies’ agendas, she says, but for the solicitor general to change his office’s stance before the Supreme Court for what appear to be political reasons “is a significant shift.”
The stakes in the NLRB case are high. The question is whether employment contracts can prohibit employees from joining together to seek better working conditions or higher wages or to address grievances, instead forcing them into secret, individual arbitration proceedings. Since 2012, the NLRB has held that these increasingly common mandatory arbitration clauses are illegal because they violate employees’ right to join together, which is enshrined in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. The Justice Department has taken the position that in order to get a job, workers can be forced to waive any right topetitioncollectively in the future. If the department and the employers it is siding with prevail, such employment contracts are likely to proliferate further, giving every employer the ability to escape any chance of a class-action lawsuit or other type of collective agitation.
In March, the Justice Department filed a motion before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in which it agreed with PHH. A “removal restriction for the Director of the CFPB is an unwarranted limitation on the President’s executive power,” the department wrote in a court filing announcing its new position.The Justice Department has also switched positions in a case over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency created after the financial collapse in 2008 to protect consumers from predatory mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and other financial products. The agency, the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), has been a target of Republicans since its inception. Now the Trump administration has seized on a chance to weaken it. The case originated when the CFBP levied a $109 million fine against PHH Corporation, a mortgage services provider that it alleged was referring customers to specific insurers in what was tantamount to a kickback scheme. PHH sued, claiming that in creatingthe CFPB’s leadership structure, Congress made the agency more independent from the president than is allowed under the Constitution. The agency’s director serves a five-year term and can only be fired by the president for cause.
Gupta, a former top official at the CFPB, sees this case as the most troubling of the three because, rather than execute the laws passed by Congress as required by the Constitution, the administration has opted to argue against an act of Congress. This is not unheard of; in 2011, the Obama administration announced that it would no longer defend a federal law that banned the recognition of same-sex marriages. But in announcing that decision, then-Attorney General Eric Holder explained that it was made in consultation with Obama and after an extensive review of the issue.
In contrast, the Trump administration’s decision to flip its position on the constitutionality of the CFPB seemed to lack serious deliberation. Three weeks before the administration announced its new position in a court filing, the department took the opposite position in a case that raised the same constitutional objection to another agency—the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)—with the same leadership structure as the CFPB. In February, the department filed a brief, signed by acting assistant attorney general Chad Readler, in which it argued that the challenge to the FHFA’s structure was an “illogical thesis” and “wholly without merit.” Three weeks later, Readler made the opposite argument about the CFPB. Acknowledging the conflict, Readler advised the court retroactively in the FHFA case that the government “does not urge reliance” on the argument it had previously advocated.”
. . . .
But under Sessions, the Justice Department has decided not only to take on other executive agencies, but also to switch positions in a number of other cases, including multiple voting rights cases. How judges will react to this fickleness—particularly in the coming Supreme Court term—could affect the Trump administration’s ability to uphold its broader agenda in the courts. “Of all the offices in the federal government,” says Adler, “we tend to expect the solicitor general’s office to be the most candid about what the law requires versus what’s a policy judgment, and to really not overplay that or overstate that.”
Read the complete article at the link.
“This is not normal.” That pretty much sums up the Trump Administration and the entire career of “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions in a nutshell! The worst thing is that U.S. taxpayers are being ripped off for clowns like Sessions and his fellow travelers who are out to trash the rights and interests of the majority of Americans and to rip apart the rule of law and decency in Government at the same time.
It’s sorta like when guerrillas support themselves by extorting their political enemies or perceived enemies (something that the BIA in its wrong-headed rush to restrict asylum protection doesn’t recognize as “persecution,” even though it’s one of the oldest and most classic forms of political persecution). Make no mistake about it, Gonzo and his team of politicos are waging “guerrilla warfare” against career lawyers and the rule of law at the U.S. Department of Justice and in the Federal Courts. And, to date, they have largely gotten away with it.
These unquestionably are “law-free” bias-driven policy decisions by Gonzo. I’ve never seen any evidence whatsoever that Sessions actually reads or has even basic knowledge of American law. It’s just not necessary for a lifelong member of “The Wrecking Crew.” What is clear, however, is that he arrived at DOJ not with legal books, but with “cue cards” prepared for him by the Heritage Foundation, restrictionist immigration groups, and his White Nationalist buddies Miller and Bannon. His memoranda and briefs are studies in disingenuous doublespeak, complete nonsense, White Nationalist myths, and an overall intellectual shallowness that almost matches that of Trump.
It also shows why nobody should take seriously Gonzo’s disingenuous babbling about the Constitution or the “Rule of Law,” both of which he mocks nearly every day he remans in the high office for which he is so spectacularly unqualified. Liz was definitely right!
The good news, if any, is that by the time this disaster is over, the Solicitor General’s Office will have lost its last shred of credibility in the Article III Federal Courts. And, perhaps it will be a good thing for American justice when the “SG” loses his or her “privileged position” and is finally viewed as just another suspect and self-interested litigant in court. And, not a very smart or very well-qualified litigant at that.
Once lost, credibility can seldom be regained.Think about that one, Noel Francisco, before you and your subordinates become complete shills for the legally and morally bankrupt positions of Gonzo and Trump.
“WASHINGTON — Shortly after learning in May that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate links between his campaign associates and Russia, President Trump berated Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an Oval Office meeting and said he should resign, according to current and former administration officials and others briefed on the matter.
The president blamed the appointment of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation — a move Mr. Trump believes was the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry. Accusing Mr. Sessions of “disloyalty,” Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general.
Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House, according to four people who were told details of the meeting. Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.
The Oval Office meeting, details of which have not previously been reported, shows the intensity of Mr. Trump’s emotions as the Russia investigation gained steam and how he appeared to immediately see Mr. Mueller’s appointment as a looming problem for his administration. It also illustrates the depth of antipathy Mr. Trump has had for Mr. Sessions — one of his earliest campaign supporters — and how the president interprets “disloyalty” within his circle of advisers.
Mr. Trump ended up rejecting Mr. Sessions’s May resignation letter after senior members of his administration argued that dismissing the attorney general would only create more problems for a president who had already fired an F.B.I. director and a national security adviser. Mr. Trump once again, in July, told aides he wanted to remove Mr. Sessions, but for a second time didn’t take action.
. . . .
The president relented, and eventually returned the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions — with a handwritten response on it.
For Mr. Sessions, the aggressiveness with which Mr. Trump has sought his removal was a blow. The son of a general store owner in a small town in Alabama, Mr. Sessions had long wanted to be the nation’s top federal law enforcement official or to serve in another top law enforcement or judicial post. He earned a reputation in the Senate as someone tough on immigration, and was the first senator to back Mr. Trump in the presidential campaign.
But their relationship began to deteriorate little more than a month after Mr. Trump was sworn in as president, after Mr. Sessions’s announcement that he was recusing himself from the Russia inquiry caught Mr. Trump by surprise.
The president spent months stewing about the recusal. In a July 19 interview with The Times, Mr. Trump said he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions to be attorney general if he knew he was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump called the decision “very unfair to the president.”
Days after the Times interview, Mr. Trump told aides he wanted to replace Mr. Sessions. Some of the president’s aides, not sure if Mr. Trump really wanted the attorney general gone or was just working through his anger, were able to delay the firing until the president’s anger passed.
But Mr. Trump continued his public attacks in the days that followed, including taking to Twitter to call him “weak” — a word that is among the harshest criticisms in Mr. Trump’s arsenal.
Administration officials and some of Mr. Trump’s outside advisers have puzzled at Mr. Sessions’s decision to stay on. But people close to Mr. Sessions said that he did not leave because he had a chance to have an impact on what he sees as a defining issue of his career: curtailing legal and illegal immigration.
In recent weeks, he has spearheaded the effort to undo what he believed to be the Obama administration’s dangerously lenient immigration policies, including the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program.
Mr. Sessions had no illusions about converting Mr. Trump to his side of the argument — Mr. Trump remains deeply ambivalent — and he had no illusions about repairing a damaged relationship he had once regarded as a friendship. But he told people he felt he had successfully pushed the president toward ending the Obama immigration policy, and thought it had given him increased leverage in the West Wing.
The president agreed to terminate the program, and on Sept. 5 Mr. Sessions stood alone at a lectern — a moment that seemed to be a significant victory for the attorney general.
But his satisfaction was fleeting. Mr. Trump quickly undercut Mr. Sessions in a tweet by saying he would reconsider whether or not to end the program, leading the attorney general to tell allies that he was frustrated that the president had muddled months of work leading to the announcement of the new policy.
On Wednesday evening, Democrats announced they had reached a deal with the president to quickly extend protections for young undocumented immigrants.
On Thursday morning, taking a vastly different position from the one Mr. Sessions had announced, the president tweeted about the need for protections for people brought here “through no fault of their own.”
I’m not in favor of publicly humiliating any human being, even Jeff Sessions. But, my sympathy is tempered by Sessions’s willingness to lie and humiliate migrants, Hispanics, African Americans, and members of the LGBTQ community, among others, in pursuit of his obscene White Nationalist agenda. In other words, to pick on the most vulnerable members of our society, rather than using the laws to protect them and advance the cause of justice, including social justice (a concept that Sessions has never grasped).
Trump’s reasons for firing Sessions were unethical and wrong. But, Sessions is already the worst and least qualified Attorney General in modern history. When he finally departs the Department of Justice, of his own volition or otherwise, it will be a relief to all Americans who believe in the Constitution and a diverse, humane, inclusive society. The only question is whether the damage that Sessions is doing at Justice and to the Department’s credibility can ever be repaired after the debacle of his tenure finally ends.
“The Justice Department has reversed its position in a high-profile voting case in Ohio, siding with the state in its effort to purge thousands of people from its rolls for not voting in recent elections.
The move is part of a broader campaign by the Trump administration to support restrictions on who is eligible to vote, a radical change in philosophy from the previous Justice Department, which sued a number of states over voting laws that it deemed discriminatory against minorities.
In a court filing late Monday, Justice Department attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involves Ohio’s removal last year of tens of thousands of inactive voters from its voting rolls.
In their brief, government lawyers say they reconsidered the Ohio vote-purging issue after the “change in Administrations,” and they argue that the state’s actions are legal under federal law. The case is headed next to the Supreme Court.
Ohio’s procedure allows the state to purge voters who meet certain criteria for being inactive. If a voter has not cast a ballot in two years, the person is sent a notice asking them to confirm their registration. If the voter does not respond and does not cast a ballot over the next four years, the person is removed from the rolls.
The Trump administration has signaled in other ways that it intends to back added requirements for voters as part of a crackdown on alleged fraud.
President Trump in May created an advisory commission on election integrity that has been tasked with determining the extent of illegal voting. The president earlier made the baseless allegation that illegal voting cost him the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
The commission’s only notable act so far has been to request massive amounts of voter data from the states, a move that has provoked lawsuits accusing the panel of breaching Americans’ privacy.
The case in Ohio is not the first time the Justice Department has reversed course in a major legal battle over voting rights. In February, shortly after Jeff Sessions became attorney general, the department dropped its position in a long-running case that argued Texas intended to discriminate against minorities when it passed a strict voter-ID law.
The Texas law, passed in 2011, required that voters present certain forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or a weapons permit, but the state did not allow other forms, including IDs issued by colleges. Critics said these restrictions targeted voters, such as young people and minorities, who are more likely to vote Democratic. A number of courts found the Texas law to be unconstitutional, and a federal court in April found that the Texas legislature intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic voters.
Voting rights advocates said the Justice Department’s action on Ohio represented a major change in direction for the U.S. government’s stance on access to the polls.
The move “signals the broader agenda of the administration to roll back voter rights in this country,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.”
During Sessions’s Senate Confirmation, Senator Liz Warren, Senator Corey Booker, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and my friend and former DOJ Civil Rights Attorney Jerry Hebert, among others, tried to tell the Committee and the Senators that Sessions was the same White Nationalist/racially challenged individual he had been back when he was properly rejected for a U.S. District Judge position. They were “tuned out.”
Sessions took umbrage, and then lied under oath to the Committee when he claimed to be a staunch defender of civil rights and someone who would separate his political positions as a Republican Senator from Alabama (a state with a disgraceful history of racial bias) from his new responsibilities as Attorney General for all Americans. That would include people of color, LGBT Individuals, immigrants, both legal and undocumented, women, and even Democrats. But, he’s the “same ol’ Jeff” just like his critics said he would be. And the carnage to the American justice system that he is creating probably won’t be repaired any time soon.
Gonzo’s reported next target and scheme to waste of taxpayer money: legalized marijuana. Return to “Reefer Madness!”
“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times.
The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on “investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.”
The announcement suggests that the project will be run out of the division’s front office, where the Trump administration’s political appointees work, rather than its Educational Opportunities Section, which is run by career civil servants and normally handles work involving schools and universities.
The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, “intentional race-based discrimination,” cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minority students to university campuses.
Supporters and critics of the project said it was clearly targeting admissions programs that can give members of generally disadvantaged groups, like black and Latino students, an edge over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores.
The project is another sign that the civil rights division is taking on a conservative tilt under President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It follows other changes in Justice Department policy on voting rights, gay rights and police reforms.
. . . .
The pending start of the affirmative action project — division lawyers who want to work on it must submit their résumés by Aug. 9, the announcement said — joins a series of changes involving civil rights law since Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
In a lawsuit challenging Texas’ strict voter identification law, the Justice Department switched its position, dropping the claim that the law was intentionally discriminatory and later declaring that the law had been fixed. Mr. Sessions has also made clear he is not interested in using consent decrees to impose reforms on troubled police departments and has initiated a sweeping review of existing agreements.
Last week, the Justice Department, without being asked, filed a brief in a private employment discrimination lawsuit. It urged an appeals court not to interpret the ban on sex-based discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as covering sexual orientation. The Obama administration had shied from taking a stand on that question.
Vanita Gupta, who ran the civil rights division in the Obama administration’s second term and is now president of the liberal Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, noted that the briefs in the Texas voter identification and gay-rights cases were signed only by Trump administration political appointees, not career officials, just as the affirmative action project will apparently be run directly by the division’s front office.
“The fact that the position is in the political front office, and not in the career section that enforces antidiscrimination laws for education, suggests that this person will be carrying out an agenda aimed at undermining diversity in higher education without needing to say it,” Ms. Gupta said.
The civil rights division has been a recurring culture-war battleground as it passed between Democratic and Republican administrations.”
Wow! Talk about waste, fraud, and abuse by political officials at the DOJ! Oh, GAO, where art thou when the country needs you? Assuming that any minorities can still vote by the time Sessions and Trump get through — a big if — they might want to consider turning out for candidates who will support the “original intent” of Civil Rights laws, rather than perverting them to further entrench the White (Largely Male) GOP Establishment.
Former Department of Justice officials and voting advocates are seriously alarmed over a DOJ letter sent to states last week that they say could signal a forthcoming effort to kick people off voter rolls. This comes as national attention focuses on several states blocking a request for voter information from President Donald Trump’s commission to investigate voting fraud, which does occur, but is not a widespread problem.
The DOJ sent the letter to44 stateslast Wednesday, the same day the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter controversially requesting personal voter information. The DOJ letter requests that election officials respond by detailing their compliance with a section of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), which covers 44 states and was enacted to help people register to vote, but also specifies when voters may be kicked off the rolls.
Several experts said it’s difficult not to see the DOJ letter in connection with the commission’s letter as part of a multipronged effort to restrict voting rights.
Former Justice Department officials say that while there’s nothing notable about seeking information about compliance with the NVRA, it is unusual for the department to send out such a broad inquiry to so many states seeking information. Such a wide probe could signal the department is broadly fishing for cases of non-compliance to bring suits aimed at purging the voter rolls.
“These two letters, sent on the same day, are highly suspect, and seem to confirm that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to suppress the right to vote,” said Vanita Gupta, the CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama. “It is not normal for the Department of Justice to ask for voting data from all states covered by the National Voter Registration Act. It’s likely that this is instead the beginning of an effort to force unwarranted voter purges.”
These two letters, sent on the same day, are highly suspect, and seem to confirm that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to suppress the right to vote.Vanita Gupta, head of DOJ’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama.
“If this went to any individual states, I don’t think anybody would’ve blinked twice,” said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the civil rights division in the Obama administration. The letter asked for public information that was uncontroversial, he added, but what made the letter “really weird” was that it was sent out to so many states.
“The Department of Justice does investigations all the time, but those are usually based on individualized predicates to believe that there’s a problem in a given area, in a given jurisdiction. And I’m not aware of a similar letter being sent to blanket jurisdictions across the country,” he said.”
Read the complete article at the link. The concept that “Gonzo Apocalypto” would protect anybody’s voting rights except those of white GOP leaning voters is borderline absurd. Deconstructing (and perverting) the American justice system one gonzo decision at a time.
“CHICAGO ― In the final months of the Obama administration, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division scrambled to complete its biggest-ever investigation of a city police department: a 13-month probe of Chicago’s 12,000-strong police force that wrapped up just a week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
For more than a year, the division’s lawyers reviewed thousands of Chicago Police Department documents, visited all 22 police districts, went on 60 ride-alongs, reviewed 170 police shooting files, examined over 425 incidents of less-lethal force, interviewed 340 department members and talked to about 1,000 Chicago residents.
Their final report, issued Jan. 13, recognized the tough job officers had in Chicago as they dealt with spiking gun violence, and praised the “diligent efforts and brave actions of countless” officers. But a “breach in trust” eroded Chicago’s ability to prevent crime, because officers were able to escape accountability when they broke the law, the report found. Because “trust and effectiveness in combating violent crime are inextricably intertwined,” the report found “broad, fundamental reform” was needed in Chicago.
Without a formal legal agreement to reform — known as a consent decree — and independent monitoring, the report concluded, reform efforts in Chicago were “not likely to be successful.”
Sessions wants the Justice Department to serve as the “leading advocate for law enforcement in America.” While admitting he hadn’t read the full Chicago report, he called it “anecdotal” and “not so scientifically based.” Earlier this month in Baltimore, a Justice Department lawyer said Sessions had “grave concerns” about an agreement previously reached between that city and the Obama administration. A federal judge signed off on the deal over Sessions’ objections.
In an interview with a conservative radio host this month, Sessions seemed to suggest that Justice Department investigations and consent decrees were resulting in “big crime increases.” In an op-ed for USA Today last week, Sessions wrote that consent decrees could amount to “harmful federal intrusion” that could “cost more lives by handcuffing the police instead of the criminals.” There’s too much focus on “a small number of police who are bad actors,” Sessions wrote, and “too many people believe the solution is to impose consent decrees that discourage the proactive policing that keeps our cities safe.”
Chicago has a serious violent crime problem. Last year was the deadliest in the city in two decades, with 762 homicides. But supporters of police reform like Jonathan Smith, a former official in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that Sessions was “simply wrong” to suggest that crime goes up as a result of reform (or, in Chicago’s case, an investigation). DOJ investigations can increase community confidence in police departments and make people safer, Smith argued.
“In communities like Baltimore and Chicago where certain neighborhoods are experiencing gun violence, the problems long predate Justice Department involvement,” said Smith. “The issues in those communities are linked to weakened gun laws that create easy access to firearms, lack of opportunity for jobs and housing and a history of police misconduct that creates mistrust between police and the communities they serve. Lack of police accountability is often a significant contributing factor in a spike in crime because of community mistrust.”
Lorie Fridell, a criminologist and police bias expert from whom the Chicago’s Police Accountability Task Force solicited information for its report released last year, said DOJ investigations not only help to usher in badly need reforms to the specific departments probed, but other departments also rely on the reports to determine if their own departments are meeting constitutional standards.
“I think it’s very unfortunate the DOJ is no longer going to prioritize police reform,” Fridell said. ”The future of police reform is therefore going to have to come from the ground up. It’s going to be important for concerned individuals to demand high-quality policing.”
Read the complete HuffPost article at the above link. And, for those of you who would like to be better informed than AG “Gonzo Apocalypto” about the need for serious police reform in Chicago, you can read the complete DOJ Civil Rights Division report here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/925846/download.
Sen. Liz Warren, Sen. Cory Booker, and others who opposed Sessions’s nomination to be AG, and told the truth about his white nationalist views (which he tried to conceal/downplay during his confirmation hearing, in addition to lying under oath about his Russian contacts) were right!
By VANITA GUPTA and COREY STOUGHTON
APRIL 5, 2017
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered a review of federal agreements with a number of local law enforcement agencies aimed at reforming troubled departments. As a first step, the Justice Department on Monday asked a judge to delay a consent decree that would overhaul Baltimore’s police force.
On its face, Mr. Sessions’s order simply asks whether the consent decrees promote public safety, support officers, respect local control and are warranted. But underlying the order is the Trump administration’s belief that efforts to align police practices with the Constitution have compromised public safety and thrown police officers under the bus.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Countless police chiefs and mayors are vocal about wanting federal reform or have emerged from the consent decree process remarking that their departments were the better for it. Mr. Sessions claims to want to revert to local control, but he should listen to local officials like Baltimore’s police commissioner, Kevin Davis, who called the Justice Department’s request to delay the reform agreement “a punch in the gut” and noted that “a consent decree will make the Baltimore police department better both with the crime fight and our community relationships.”
No matter what review Mr. Sessions conducts, he cannot unilaterally undo these reform agreements. That’s because the district courts that oversee them will ultimately decide their fate. In addition, the reforms are negotiated with local elected officials and law enforcement leaders, with extensive input from grass-roots organizations, police unions, officers and civilians. Mr. Sessions can try to undermine them, but many of the reforms are durable.
That’s good, because communities around the country need this work to continue. In cities like Ferguson, Mo., Chicago and Baltimore, federal reform addresses unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests, and excessive and retaliatory force. These problems erode trust between police departments and the communities they serve, trust that is essential to effective policing as well as officer and public safety.
Rebuilding these ties is also necessary for preventing and solving crime. Few in law enforcement would disagree with this. When we worked on police reform at the Justice Department, we heard over and over again from officers and community members during our investigations in Baltimore and Chicago that relationships had broken down so badly, witnesses sometimes refused to share vital information and victims declined police assistance.
Mr. Sessions’s suggestion that the Justice Department’s policing agreements interfere with proactive policing is likewise baseless. There is no question that lawful stops, arrests and, at times, the use of force are all necessary tools for ensuring public safety. But Baltimore’s misguided zero-tolerance policing strategy, for example, severely damaged police-community relations, especially in black neighborhoods. Even the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police acknowledged that officers felt “pressure to achieve numbers for perception’s sake.”
And, Seattle’s recent experience shows that Federal intervention and consent decrees improve policing and saves lives, as shown by this report in the Seattle Times:
“Five years after the U.S. Justice Department found Seattle police officers too often resorted to excessive force, the federal monitor overseeing court-ordered reforms issued a glowing report Thursday concluding the department has carried out a dramatic turnaround.
Crediting Mayor Ed Murray, Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole and, most of all, the Seattle Police Department’s men and women, the monitor, Merrick Bobb, found overall use of force is down and, when officers do use it, it is largely handled in a reasonable way consistent with department policies.
As a result, Bobb found the department to be in substantial compliance — formally known as initial compliance — with core provisions of a 2012 consent decree that required the city to adopt new policies and training to address excessive force.
“The significance and importance of this finding cannot be understated, as this report makes clear,” Bobb wrote in the 102-page assessment. “It represents a singular and foundational milestone on SPD’s road to full and effective compliance — and represents Seattle crystallizing into a model of policing for the 21st century.”
Moreover, use of force has dropped even as officer injuries have not gone up and crime, by most measures, has not increased, Bobb and his monitoring team write in the report.
O’Toole shared the results in a departmentwide email Monday afternoon, saying, “In short, the Monitor’s assessment confirms the data that SPD reported on earlier this year: of the hundreds of thousands of unique incidents to which SPD officers respond every year, only a small fraction of one percent result in any use of force.”
The report, which has been in the works for some time, comes days after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered Justice Department officials to conduct a review of reform agreements with more than a dozen police agencies nationwide to determine whether they, among other things, undermine officer safety and crime fighting.
While the order could undercut newer agreements reached under the civil-rights emphasis during the Obama administration, officials have said it is unlikely to affect Seattle’s pact because it is under the firm control of a federal judge.
The judge, James Robart, has shown an unwavering commitment to Seattle’s consent decree, even declaring “black lives matter” during a court hearing, and earlier this year halted the Trump administration’s first travel ban.
In a statement Tuesday, Murray said, “Our progress under the Consent Decree cannot be undone by empty bureaucratic threats. Our police department is well into the process of reform and will continue this work. We are too far along for President Trump to pull us away from justice.”
Must be hard for current and former DOJ Civil Rights Division attorneys, who have spent years painstakingly investigating, drafting, and negotiating agreements to promote effective, constitutional policing to see their work being trashed by a guy who has spent most of his career trying to limit civil and human rights. Been there myself, in a somewhat different context, and it’s very disheartening and maddening.
While I don’t have much optimism that career attorneys in the DOJ will be able to stand up to Sessions and keep their jobs, it is encouraging that many of the jurisdictions, police departments, and Federal Judges involved in the consent decree process intend to keep the ball rolling despite Session’s attempts to undermine their efforts.
And, certainly advocates, like Gupta and Stoughton in their new “private sector” positions, intend to keep the pressure on even if it means doing battle with the Trumped-up Sessions version of the DOJ. Forget civil rights, gotta keep a close eye on what those H-1B workers and their employers are up to.