Civil Rights Changes Taking Shape at Justice Department

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A new team is starting to take shape at the U.S. Justice Department. Among their early moves is  a signal they will change the approach to major civil rights cases, NPR reports. Jeff Sessions is likely to be confirmed as Attorney General within two weeks, despite opposition from civil rights groups. As previously reported, Rod Rosenstein, the top prosecutor in Baltimore, is in line to become the deputy attorney general. Rachel Brand, a veteran of the George W. Bush Justice Department, is a likely associate attorney general.

DOJ has asked to delay a court hearing involving a settlement with Baltimore over discrimination and excessive force by the police department. It’s possible the consent decree the Obama DOJ reached with Baltimore could change shape under the Trump DOJ. In possibly a bigger shift, the new Justice Department team has asked to delay a hearing in a case involving a voter ID law in Texas. Now, four courts have found that voter ID law in Texas discriminates against black and Latino people. Civil rights groups are worried that Justice may be preparing to switch positions in the case, and they say that the civil rights community will keep pressing ahead even if the Justice Department bails. Two political appointees are in place handling civil rights cases. One is Thomas Wheeler, a lawyer from Indiana with close ties to Vice President Mike Pence, and John Gore, a lawyer from private practice in D.C. who’s worked on a lot of civil rights cases, but from a Republican point of view. There are going to be major changes ahead, we’re starting to see them now, says NPR.


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