[JURIST] Former US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] intern Sean Gerlich is seeking class action status for a suit he has filed against the DOJ for discrimination based on political affiliation [PDF complaint]. In the suit, Gerlich alleges that he was denied a position in the department's Honors Program [DOJ materials] because of his earlier work with a human rights group and a democratic campaign. Daniel Metcalfe [faculty profile], a law professor and former DOJ lawyer [Legal Times interview], is representing Gerlich and has said that in 2006 as many as 359 applicants to the program may have been similarly dismissed in violation of the Civil Service Reform Act [statute text], the Privacy Act [text], and their Constitutional rights. The Office of Special Counsel [official website] has also announced that it will be conducting an investigation into whether or not disciplinary measures are warranted for employees involved in the illegal screening of applicants. The Washington Post has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.
Both the lawsuit and investigation stem from a June report [PDF text; JURIST report] released by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General [official website] which found that the DOJ had improperly granted preferential treatment to conservative candidates in assessing job and summer internship applications under 2002 and 2006 screening programs. The report found that political officials played a significant role in the department's hiring processes, supporting accusations that the Bush administration has politicized the supposedly nonpartisan department. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned [JURIST report] last year amidst related allegations concerning the alleged firing of US Attorneys for political reasons [JURIST news archive].