Issues

Obama Attorney General Eric Holder Leaves Behind An Outstanding Civil Rights Legacy


Attorney General Eric Holder is resigning, but he is leaving behind a great record of fighting for justice for all Americans. Here is a look at some of Holder’s accomplishments as Attorney General.

According to ABC News, “At a formal announcement later today, the attorney general plans to express his personal gratitude to the President for the opportunity to serve in his administration and to lead the Justice Department, which he will call the ‘greatest honor of my professional life.’ He will note he has loved the Justice Department since, when he was a boy, he watched how, under Attorney General Kennedy, the Department played a leadership role in advancing the civil rights movement. During his tenure as Attorney General, Holder has had Attorney General Kennedy’s portrait in his conference room.”

Attorney General Holder has been suggesting in recent interviews that he may step down soon, so isn’t coming completely out of left field. Holder revitalized the Civil Rights Division that had been gutted under George W. Bush. Holder has an historic record of civil rights enforcement. His Justice Department has been a strong protector of voting rights, and has done battle with state level Republicans who for years have been trying to suppress the vote through extreme voter ID laws.

Holder has spoken honestly about racism in the United States. Because of his stance on civil rights and voting rights, Holder was a frequent target of the same racial animosity that Republicans throw at President Obama. House Republicans voted to hold Eric Holder in contempt based on nothing more than their widely debunked Fast and Furious conspiracy theory.

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According to the Justice Department, here is Holder’s record on the prosecution of hate crimes:

The Department has investigated and prosecuted hate crimes under the landmark Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. In Fiscal Years 2011 and 2012, the Department convicted the most defendants on hate crimes charges in more than a decade. Since its passage in 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has provided the Department with important tools to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. To date, the Department has trained thousands of federal and local law enforcement officials around the country to use the statute.

So far:

In the past four fiscal years (2009-2012), the Department has prosecuted 29 percent more hate crime cases than were prosecuted in the previous three fiscal years (2005-2008), and charged 78 percent more hate crime defendants.

The Department has brought 21 cases, charging 53 defendants. Of those 53 defendants, 40 have been convicted. The Department has prosecuted cases under the Shepard-Byrd Act in Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.

In addition to using the Shepard-Byrd Act, the Department also continues to employ 18 U.S.C. §§ 245 (federally protected activities), 247 (obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs/ damage to religious real property), and 42 U.S.C. § 3631 (criminal interference with right to fair housing) to prosecute hate crimes.

Attorney General Holder has also gone to court to protect the rights of the disabled and fight for environmental justice.

Eric Holder leaves behind an outstanding legacy as Attorney General. His departure is a reminder that President Obama’s time in office will soon be coming to an end.

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