Civil Rights Division Hit Hard in Justice Dept. Shutdown

Attorney General Eric Holder has a full plate, but will lose much of his capacity to carry out the work due to Congress' dysfunction.

By Brentin Mock Oct 01, 2013

Yesterday, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was announcing a lawsuit against North Carolina for its voter ID bill, his Justice Department staff was preparing to shut down. When Congress failed to pass a continuing resolution or a spending bill last night, Cabinet agencies across the federal map began implementing plans for working at partial capacity — many of those plans drafted in 2011 when a government shutdown was threatened then.

For the Justice Department, many of its staff will be exempt from shutdown-imposed furloughs, due to the nature of its national security work, but some of its divisions will have to send home huge swaths of their staff. Among those is the Civil Rights Division, which is furloughing 71 percent of its employees, according to a copy of the Justice Department’s shutdown contingency plan.  Of the division’s 634 employees, 182 will stay on board, including 134 attorneys.

Also hit: the general Civil Division with 71 percent of its 1,310 employees on furlough and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which would lose 70 percent of its 1,339 employees.

 All political appointees are immune to furloughs, but at yesterday’s press conference, Holder said some of his agents and lawyers will not survive.

"It is entirely possible that we will have to put on furlough some FBI agents and prosecutors as result of the dysfunction that exists primarily in the House of Representatives," said Holder

Holder will remain in office, but he said he would reduce his pay by the largest amount of salary loss suffered by any of his impacted staff. Training for new Justice staff and for state and local officers the department regularly works with will also either be cancelled or postponed.

People are trying to make a political point and I’m trying to run a Justice Department," said Holder. "We’re trying to keep the American people safe; we’re trying to keep crime down"

Other impacted areas:

  • U.S. Parole Commission: In this agency, which responds to requests for emergency warrants and processes parole certificates, 87 percent of this department is vulnerable to furloughs.
  • Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force: The Wire will not come down. This Task Force has "strike forces" that target drug kingpins and wide-scale organizations that move weight. While its administrative support will shrink considerably, it’ll still be on the prowl for that highest-level drug activity that Holder has not grown lenient on despite his current reforms. Also note, both DEA and ATF has exempted large portions of their staff from furloughs, 87 percent and 83 percent respectfully. The Wire stays up.
  • FBI: Their investigations are expected to carry on and it is retaining at least 84 percent of its staff.
  • Office on Violence Against Women: This grant program will keep 100 percent of its staff.