[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] plans to expand its Civil Rights Division [official website] and more actively enforce anti-discrimination laws, Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] told the New York Times [media website] in an interview [NYT report] published Monday. The increased focus on civil rights marks a change in focus from the previous administration, which, according to the New York Times [NYT report; JURIST report], shifted resources from preventing racial discrimination to protecting religious rights. Among the new measures described by Holder are President Barack Obama's plan to add more than 50 lawyers to the Civil Rights Division and increased enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in areas in which minorities are often adversely affected, including housing and employment.
Holder has implemented a number of changes to the DOJ in regards to civil rights since being confirmed [JURIST report] in February. In June, Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] that hate crime legislation [JURIST report] is one of the DOJ's top priorities. Also in June, the DOJ rejected [JURIST report] as discriminatory a Georgia law requiring voters to have identification. At his swearing in ceremony, Holder pledged [JURIST report] to restore the traditions of fairness and neutrality to the department. In January, a report [text, PDF; JURIST report] released by the Office of the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility [official websites] found that under the Bush administration, DOJ applicants faced discrimination in the hiring process if they did not have conservative views.