One of the casualties of the Bush administration has been the culture of neutrality that has been the hallmark of the professional staff at the Department of Justice (DOJ). While Presidents come and go, as do their appointments to lead DOJ, the professional staff has always carried the reputation of being neutral, apolitical legal professionals who worked to uphold the law and dispense justice free of partisan politics. The report reveals the degree the outgoing administration has stained the department’s reputation and by doing so has badly damaged its credibility.
The release this week of a 67 page report by DOJ’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility on hiring practices under ousted official Bradley J. Schlozman exposed the degree to which political ideology and race has driven hiring in the Department under the Bush administration. The report was authored by Glenn Fine, the Inspector General, and H. Marshall Jarrett, the head of the Office of Professional Responsibility. Both men are veterans within the Department of Justice.
Schlozman helped run the Civil Rights Division beginning in 2003 and left four years later after the controversial dismissal of at least eight United States attorneys. The episode led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who gave false statements under oath to Congress when he testified regarding hiring practices in the Department of Justice. The Internal documents reveal that Schlozman blatantly discriminated against applicants based upon their political ideology and race, and used right leaning, conservative groups as a feeder system into DOH. The report analyzed 112 career hires under Scholzman and concluded that virtually all of the lawyers with known political affiliations were tied to Republicans or conservative leaning groups.
The report concludes that Schlozman made false statements to Congress when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007. He later retired in August of that year under considerable pressure. Senate Democrats remain angry over the decision not to prosecute Schlozman. The report is the culmination of an almost three year investigation into “politics” in the Department that has led to the resignations of a dozen senior officials. For many the findings of the department watchdogs confirm long running criticism that under the Bush administration the agency failed to enforce civil rights laws. The report by the inspector general and the Office of Personal Responsibility revealed the degree to which those laws were not applied internally, even in the department specifically charged with that responsibility.
The findings in the report come just before Attorney General Designee Eric Holder faces his confirmation hearing in the Senate. Holder has already signaled his intention to commit resources to civil rights enforcement and issues of diversity within the Department of Justice. Given the politicization of the agency during the Bush presidency the most immediate task Holder faces is restoring its credibility.