ACLU Urges Congress to Ensure Full Enforcement of Civil Rights Laws

May 21, 2002 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


WASHINGTON – Concerned with reports that the Department of Justice may be failing to fully enforce U.S. civil rights laws, the American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to use its oversight function to ensure that the Department fully comply with its responsibility to protect Americans from discrimination.

“When civil rights enforcement is ignored, we can expect to see more discrimination,” said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. “If these laws are being ignored by the primary federal agency charged with their enforcement, the consequences will be that much greater. The Attorney General needs to step up his department’s protection of equality, justice and basic fairness.”

Murphy’s comments come as the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to convene oversight hearings, chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), over the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which has recently come under heavy scrutiny for its questionable abandonment of a number key civil rights cases across the country. The division’s head, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Ralph Boyd, will be a witness at the hearing this afternoon.

Specifically, since the inception of the Bush Administration, the Civil Rights Division has:

  • Considered releasing the Adam’s Mark Hotel – a hotel chain accused of racial discrimination against its guests – from a court-ordered settlement.
  • Failed to bring any new predatory lending cases.
  • Abandoned a landmark civil rights case against the Philadelphia transit system, which charged that the system employed an overly rigorous and discriminatory physical test that had nothing to do with the job requirements but excluded nearly all women applicants from transit police positions.
  • Brought only two new cases for civil rights violations in the workplace.
  • Failed to bring any new cases against any police departments for police misconduct or abuse, and authorized only four new investigations.
  • Undercut minority-voting rights by failing to fully enforce the Voting Rights Act in Mississippi.
  • Brought only one new Voting Rights Act case.

“During his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Ashcroft was quite clear that he would enforce America’s civil rights laws as they are written. Recent events suggest that he has gone back on his word,” Murphy said. “His department must act quickly to prove to the American public that this is not the case. No one should fall victim to discrimination or bias or injustice because of lax civil rights enforcement.”

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

The Latest in Smart Justice

ACLU's Vision

The American Civil Liberties Union is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America.

Learn More About Smart Justice

Smart Justice issue image

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to challenge racism in the criminal legal system.