GONZO’S WORLD: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A DIVERSE “NATION OF IMMIGRANTS” ANOINTS A COMMITTED XENOPHOBE AS ITS CHIEF LAW OFFICER? – Gonzo Is Deconstructing Our System Of Justice, One Day At A Time!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/while-eyes-are-on-russia-sessions-dramatically-reshapes-the-justice-department/2017/11/24/dd52d66a-b8dd-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?utm_term=.6b27aa9221e3

“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 mean minority 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.”

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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:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/24/us/politics/state-department-tillerson.html

PWS

11-26-17

 

GONZO’S WORLD: COMING TO THE SUPREMES THIS FALL: Jeff Sessions v. United States of America! – White Nationalist AG Takes On 21st Century America In Concerted Effort To Recreate “The Bad Old Days” Of Maximo Bias & Inequality!

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/trumps-justice-department-is-taking-on-other-federal-agencies-in-court/

Pena Levy reports for Mother Jones:

“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), which his 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 advocates say 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 to petition collectively 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 creating the 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.”

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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.

PWS

10-02-17

Once Upon A Time, The DOJ Intervened On Behalf Of Disadvantaged Minorities For Whom Civil Rights Protections Were Enacted — Now, Not So Much, As Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Finds Ways To Use Civil Rights Protections Against Minorities & To Help White Establishment Cling To Power! — Switches Sides To Favor Voter Suppression Before Supremes!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-reverses-position-to-allow-ohio-to-purge-inactive-voters-from-rolls/2017/08/08/e93c5116-7c35-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.7ea94a97bc00&wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

Sari Horwitz reports in the Washington Post:

“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.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

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!”

PWS

08-09-17

 

CIVIL RIGHTS: Sessions Discovers America’s REAL Civil Rights Crisis — Insufficient White Privilege — Every White Kid Should Have Have Preferred Admission (How Else Do You Think Trump & Some Of His Cronies Got Into Good Schools?) — Gonzo Wants To Use Taxpayer $$$ To Turn Civil Rights Laws Against Blacks & Other Minorities!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/us/politics/trump-affirmative-action-universities.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Charlie Savage reports for the NY Times:

“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.”

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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.

PWS

08-02-17

JUSTICE WATCH: Experts See Sessions’s DOJ Joining Efforts At Voter Suppression!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/department-of-justice-voter-purge_us_595d22b1e4b0da2c7326c38b?1g9&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

Sam Levine writes in HuffPost:

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 to 44 states last 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.”

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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.

PWS

07-056-17

HUFFPOST: How White Nationalist “Know Nothing” Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Tanked Needed Police Reform In Chicago Without Even BOTHERING TO READ The DOJ’s 160 Page Report!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/doj-police-reform-jeff-sessions-chicago_us_58f50a77e4b0da2ff86254cf?ncid=inblnkushpmg00000 report on HuffPost:

Ryan J. Reilly & Kim Bellware report in HuffPost:

“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.”

JI SUB JEONG/HUFFPOST

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s attorney general, disagrees. In recent weeks, Sessions has expressed deep skepticism about the role of the federal government in fixing broken police departments, leaving serious doubts about the ultimate outcome of the Justice Department’s work in Chicago.

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.

JIM YOUNG / REUTERS
A protester takes part in a weekly nighttime peace march through the streets of a South Side Chicago neighborhood on September 16, 2016.

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.”

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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!

PWS

04-29-17

Former Obama DOJ Civil Rights Officials Blast Sessions On Local Policing! — Seattle Finds Sessions Dead Wrong, Fed’s Intervention & Consent Decrees Make Dramatic Improvements, Save Citizens & Police From Unnecessary Violence!

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/05/opinion/dont-let-jeff-sessions-undermine-police-reform.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_ty_20170406&nl=opinion-today&nl_art=9&nlid=79213886&ref=headline&te=1&_r=0&referer=

Op-Ed in the NY Times:

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.”

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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.”

Read the complete article here: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/in-major-step-federal-monitor-finds-seattle-police-use-of-force-reforms-are-working/?utm_source=The+Seattle+Times&utm_campaign=fe0fd2fdf6-Alert_Dramatic_turnaround_in_Seattle_PD’s_use_of_f&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5beb38b61e-fe0fd2fdf6-122767877

 

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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.

PWS

04-06-17