Illegal Hiring Practices at the Justice Department

One of the abuses of Republican one-party rule was the politicalization of portions of the government which in the past were far less partisan. The Justice Department’s inspector general has released the first in a series of reports following the firing of nine U.S. attorneys on political grounds. The report shows that the Justice Department illegally used “political or ideological” criteria for hiring:

“Many qualified candidates” were rejected for the department’s honors program because of what was perceived as a liberal bias, the report found. Those practices, the report concluded, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

The shift began in 2002, when advisers to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft restructured the honors program in response to what some officials saw as a liberal tilt in recruiting young lawyers from elite law schools like Harvard and Yale. While the recruitment was once controlled largely by career officials in each section who would review applications, political officials in the department began to assume more control, rejecting candidates with liberal or Democratic affiliations “at a significantly higher rate” than those with Republican or conservative credentials, the report said.

The shift appeared to accelerate in 2006, under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with two aides on the screening committee — Michael Elston and Esther Slater McDonald — singled out for particular criticism. The blocking of applicants with liberal credentials appeared to be a particular problem in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which has seen an exodus of career employees in recent years as the department has pursued a more conservative agenda in deciding what types of cases to bring.

Applications that contained what were seen as “leftist commentary” or “buzz words” like environmental and social justice were often grounds for rejecting applicants, according to e-mails reviewed by the inspector general’s office. Membership in liberal organizations like the American Constitution Society, Greenpeace, or the Poverty and Race Research Action Council were also seen as negative marks.

While supporting social justice was a negative, needless to say membership in the Federalist Society was a big plus.


  1. 1
    Al DeFalco says:

    Why then has there been mention that President Bill Clinton Fired every single one!!!!

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Because you have your facts completely wrong.

    Clinton replaced the staff at the start of his first term. It is customary for presidents to replace US Attorneys at the start of their term and there is nothing wrong with this. This is totally different from the manner in which the Bush administration fired attorneys for political reasons mid term.

    Even though the attorneys are hired by the president, they are supposed to be above politics in the enforcement of the law. It is unprecedented for a president to fire the attorneys they previously hired when they failed to obey their political orders.

    To claim some sort of equivalence between what Clinton did and what Bush did, as is commonly done by Bush apologists, is quite dishonest.

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