The Senate Judiciary Committee’s decision to schedule a nomination hearing for a key Justice Department position next week amid a panel of federal judgeship nominees has set off a wave of pushback from civil rights groups who oppose the candidate and believe he will not be fully vetted in the packed setting.
The nomination hearing for Eric Dreiband to be assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is set for Wednesday — one of several scheduled nomination hearings including two appeals court nominees and two district court nominees.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund accused committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, of stacking the confirmation hearing in order to “ease the path” for Mr. Drieband. The organization is concerned with what it calls Mr. Drieband’s record of “hostility toward civil rights and racial justice.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights also wrote to senators on the committee to express leaders’ dismay at the nomination. They urged senators to vote against Mr. Dreiband’s nomination, outlining their concerns about his history of representing corporate clients accused of discrimination against employees.
Mr. Dreiband, a partner at Jones Day law firm, has specialized in representing businesses in litigation over employment discrimination, whistleblower claims, and wage and hour investigations. Before that, he served from 2003 to 2005 as the general counsel of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces federal law to prevent employer discrimination against workers.
In private practice, Mr. Dreiband was recently part of the legal team that represented the University of North Carolina against a Justice Department lawsuit alleging the state’s “bathroom law” restricting transgender people’s access to public restrooms was discriminatory. The lawsuit was dropped by Trump administration after state lawmakers brokered a compromise to repeal portions of the law.
He also unsuccessfully represented clothing store Abercrombie and Fitch at the Supreme Court against EEOC in a case brought by a Muslim woman who was not hired by the company after she wore a religious headscarf to a job interview.
The selection of a nominee to lead the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has in recent years been a controversial affair.
Formed in 1957, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division handles discrimination cases, voting rights, hate crimes, as well investigations into abuses by police departments — a responsibility that received heightened attention under the Obama administration. The division has been a source of controversy under both Democratic and Republican administrations, often being accused of acting on a partisan agenda by members of the opposing party.
For civil rights groups who oppose many of the Trump administration’s goals, the post is seen as critical.
“The American people need and deserve an Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights who has a demonstrated commitment to marginalized communities and to enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws,” the leadership conference wrote to lawmakers. “Instead, Mr. Dreiband would bring personal views that are hostile to civil rights, and the experiences and perspectives of a career spent primarily defending powerful corporations accused of discrimination.”
The nominees also up for consideration on Wednesday include: Amy Coney Barrett to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Seventh Circuit , Joan Louise Larsen to be a U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit, William L. Campbell, Jr., to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Tennessee , and Thomas Lee Robinson Parker, to be a U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Tennessee.
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