The Justice Department likes to boast that it employs graduates of nearly every law school accredited by the American Bar Association. At last tally, Justice had on staff lawyers from top schools such as the University of Chicago and Yale as well as from nth-tier schools like the University of Baltimore and Widener University in Delaware. Historically black colleges, including Howard and Texas Southern University, were also represented. Why, then, would the department feel the need to institute a diversity program?
On February 5, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson announced at a departmental ceremony a new initiative to recruit and retain lawyers of diverse racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic backgrounds. There are no specific targets for any group. Besides introducing common-sense measures like a student loan repayment option to help the government compete with astronomical private sector salaries, Justice will institute a mentoring program for all new attorneys, begin posting job openings on the Internet, and provide diversity training for both career and appointed staff. This training will likely contain "common sense information on the different sensitivities," such as those harbored by Hindu or Muslim Americans, department spokesman Mark Corallo said.
"[The program] wasn't so much a need," he admits, since minority attorneys are well represented at Justice. "Diversity was a priority of the attorney general and deputy attorney general when they first took office," and "bringing a diverse group of experiences into the department" is one avenue for achieving Ashcroft's goal of "creating the world's best law firm."
"Our pursuit of justice is stronger, and the fulfillment of our national mission more effective, when we bring to bear the experience, judgment, and energy of colleagues from a wide spectrum of racial, ethnic, economic, and geographic backgrounds," Deputy Attorney General Thompson told Justice employees. "To succeed fully in our mission, we must earn and retain the trust and confidence of all Americans in how we fulfill our responsibility as custodians of justice." To properly administer American justice, in other words, the department needs a battery of lawyers that looks like America.
A few employees have indicated privately their embarrassment at the new initiative. The program epitomizes the foundationless pursuit of racial diversity, which the Bush administration itself has criticized. Indeed, with its announcement suspiciously timed to coincide with its amicus briefs opposing the University of Michigan's racial admissions policies, Justice appears to be speaking with a forked tongue. The administration brief criticizing the law school policy insists that "Although respondents have not been clear about what they mean by diversity, we assume they are not pursuing racial diversity for its own sake. In any event, respondents' raced-based policy is not necessary to ensure that minorities have access to and are represented in institutions of higher learning."
In this instance the seeking of racial diversity and diversity training are not necessary for providing anyone the opportunity to work at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Beth Henary is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.