After the Bush administration changed hiring procedures in 2002, less than half of the new hires to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division have a background in civil rights, according to an investigation by the Boston Globe. In 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the rules for hiring for career jobs, allowing political appointees – instead of civil servants – to handle the applications. Previously, a hiring committee of veteran career lawyers screened resumes, conducted interviews, and made hiring recommendations that were almost always followed, according to the Globe. Now, hiring is conducted by political appointees by the Bush administration to the Department of Justice.
Since the procedural changes in 2002, only 42 percent of the newly hired lawyers have civil rights experience, according to resumes obtained by the Boston Globe through a Freedom of Information Act request. Prior to the changes, 77 percent of all new hires had backgrounds in civil rights. Furthermore, of the new hires who do have civil rights experience, fewer were civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups. The Boston Globe reports that nine out of the 19 new hires with civil rights experience defended employers against discrimination lawsuits or fought race-conscious policies.
Accompanying the changes in employees’ backgrounds has been a change in the kinds of cases that the Civil Rights Division has handled. The University of Pittsburgh publication Jurist reports that there is an increasing number of cases alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians. Due to the shift in the division’s agenda, experienced attorneys are reportedly leaving the department.