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Lambda Legal: Biden Choices for DOJ Confront Tall Task to Restore Trust in the Institution

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January 7, 2021
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U.S. Courthouse

Today, President-elect Joseph Biden announced his nominees for key leadership positions in the U.S. Department of Justice: U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland for Attorney General; former homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco as Deputy Attorney General; former Justice Department civil rights chief Vanita Gupta as Associate Attorney General; and Kristen Clark, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director Sharon McGowan, who served as the Principal Deputy Chief of the Appellate Section of the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration, issued the following statement:

“Today, President-Elect Joe Biden took the first step in righting the U.S. Department of Justice with his announcement that he intends to nominate a slate of candidates to lead DOJ who have demonstrated a firm commitment to the rule of law in this country, to the independence of the agency, and to defending the civil rights of all who live here. We look forward to the end of an era where DOJ was led by people like Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr, who weaponized the Department of Justice to target vulnerable communities and the President’s perceived political enemies.

“We are excited by the nomination of two nationally-recognized civil rights champions, Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, for the positions of Associate Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, where they will be able to exert their intellectual and moral leadership. Yet we must be clear that every position in the Justice Department, from the Attorney General and Solicitor General down to the rank-and-file career attorneys, should be treated as a “civil rights” position, and civil rights enforcement must be treated as one of the agency’s highest priorities. We look forward to a DOJ that will get back in the business of holding police departments accountable for violating civil rights, protecting the right of every citizen to vote, and ensuring that there is equal opportunity in employment, housing, education, credit and other important spheres of life for the LGBTQ community and other groups who have relied on DOJ to move us closer to a time when there truly is equal justice under law.

“Now more than ever, the Department of Justice will need leaders with integrity, experience and an unwavering commitment to civil rights in order to undo the damage of the past four years and restoring the Justice Department to its proper role as the country’s lawyer. The slate of nominees announced by President-Elect Biden will have their hands full restoring the legal and moral authority of the Department of Justice, and we look forward to helping them in that effort.”