The Justice Department has released a report by its Inspector General and its Office of Professional Responsibility on the question of whether the political or ideological affiliations of applicants were improperly considered in selections for the Department’s Honors Program and its Summer Law Intern Program. The years in question were 2002-2006.
The reports finds no evidence of bias in 2003, 2004, and 2005. However, it finds statistical evidence of bias in 2002 when, among those initially offered up for positions by the various bureaucracies within the DOJ, a disproportionate number with Democratic Party and other liberal affiliations were “de-selected.” And it finds direct evidence of bias (comments, etc) in 2006. The report commends by name former Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler for objecting to the apparent use by others (but not the Attorney General) of political or ideological considerations in the hiring process. Ironically, Keisler’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals has been blocked by Senate Democrats based on these very considerations.
Taking political or ideological affiliation into account in hiring career civil servants is improper. It is also commonplace in Washington, and frequently redounds to the detriment of Republicans and conservatives. This can be true even during Republican administrations. A presidential appointee in a past Republican administration (not at DOJ) told me that she attempted to persuade career bureaucrats in important shops to cease hiring only liberals (she was too savvy to go beyond persuasion). Her efforts fell on deaf ears. Moreover, the Justice Department report discussed herein contains data showing that bureaucracies within the Department were presenting many more liberals and Democrats than conservatives and Republicans for the positions in question (it’s not clear, though, whether the numbers were disproportionate as compared to the relevant available talent pool).
Let’s hope that, in the event of an Obama Justice Department, members of the Federalist Society will be treated as well when it comes to career positions as members of the liberal American Constitution Society. And let’s hope that, if they are not, the matter will be investigated impartially.
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