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DOJ civil rights chief resigns

[JURIST] US Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim [official profile] has resigned [press release] as head of the Justice Department's embattled Civil Rights Division [official website]. Kim's resignation, announced Thursday, is effective the end of the month. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales praised Kim for "his honest opinions and valuable contributions as an advisor." According to the DOJ:

During Mr. Kim's tenure, the Civil Rights Division set record levels of enforcement in a broad range of areas, which included obtaining the highest number of criminal convictions in a single year in the past two decades; filing more than twice the average number of voting rights lawsuits in one year than were filed annually over the past 30 years; and filing as many lawsuits to challenge a pattern or practice of employment discrimination in one year as during the last three years of the previous Administration combined. Mr. Kim also supervised major initiatives in the areas of human trafficking prosecutions, housing discrimination, religious liberties and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other notable accomplishments include the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006; lawsuits against several financial institutions for discrimination in lending; the investigation and prosecution of cold cases from the Civil Rights Era; and numerous cases to protect the rights of persons in institutional facilities.
During the past several years, the Civil Rights Division has come under scrutiny for what some say is a shift in the department's focus. The New York Times reported in June that the Bush administration has focused on investigating issues of religious freedom and discrimination [JURIST report] at the expense of race. Earlier this year the Justice Department unveiled a new religious discrimination education initiative [JURIST report], and noted that the Civil Rights Division has "dramatically increased enforcement" of religious discrimination laws [DOJ report] between 2001 and 2006.

There have also been reports of low morale among staff in the division. In 2005, the Washington Post reported that lawyers were leaving the Civil Rights Division in record numbers [JURIST report; DOJ response] and the Boston Globe reported last summer that less than half of lawyers hired to work in the division have a background in civil rights [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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