Wednesday, August 22, 2012

U.S. Attorney’s Office Forms Civil Rights Enforcement Unit

BIRMINGHAM—The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama has formed a Civil Rights Enforcement Unit to expand the office’s work in enforcing federal civil rights laws in both the criminal and civil contexts, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice Thomas E. Perez announced today.

The new unit is part of a broader civil rights initiative that will enhance the ability of the U.S. Attorney to enforce federal civil rights laws and ensure that all persons within the Northern District of Alabama enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Veteran federal prosecutor Robert Posey, who has been nationally recognized for his role in the successful prosecution of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing cases, will head the unit. The Civil Rights Enforcement Unit will prosecute the full spectrum of federal civil rights crimes, including excessive force by police, human trafficking, and hate crimes. It will also handle law enforcement corruption cases.

The new unit also will include attorneys in the Civil and Appellate Divisions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who will focus on cases involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), fair housing, fair lending, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Service Member Civil Relief Act, Uniform Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act (USERRA) and civil cases designed to remedy patterns and practices of police misconduct. The unit will also pursue civil environmental cases and environmental justice cases under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

The civil rights unit will work closely with the Criminal Rights Division of the Department of Justice and federal law enforcement agencies in northern Alabama.

Vance and Perez made the announcement at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which is committed to both preserving and overcoming Birmingham’s troubled civil rights history.

Vance also announced the formation of the U.S. Attorney’s Community Advisory Board for Civil Rights, a group that will consist of community stakeholders and organizations. The advisory board will keep the U.S. attorney and federal law enforcement informed on emerging issues and community concerns, while providing a flow of information back to the community on civil rights enforcement. This group has already raised concerns that have led the U.S. attorney to form an anti-bullying working group. The formation of the Civil Rights Enforcement Unit and community working group will facilitate future prosecutions by providing dedicated prosecutors and a formal arrangement to coordinate the flow of information from affected communities to law enforcement.

FBI Special Agent Cornelius Harris and Department of Homeland Security Investigation’s Resident Agent in Charge David Denton joined the U.S. Attorney and the Assistant Attorney General for today’s announcement. The FBI is the primary federal enforcement agency for federal civil rights crimes, and ICE investigates human trafficking cases and other crimes.

The U.S. attorney’s civil rights initiative reflects the Justice Department’s renewed commitment to aggressive civil rights enforcement. By efficiently devoting resources and attention to these crimes, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will do its part to ensure the vindication of every American’s constitutional rights.

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