WASHINGTON—Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement on President Trump’s nomination of Eric S. Dreiband to be the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice. Gupta previously served as the head of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice:
“I had the honor and privilege of running the Civil Rights Division at a time when civil rights issues were at the front and center for the country. Whoever leads the ‘crown jewel’ of the Justice Department must have deep relationships with stakeholders and marginalized communities, and have a deep, abiding faith in our nation’s civil rights laws. They must respect the laws that touch everyone, rights that people have literally died for. They must respect the role of what has been called the conscience of the federal government. In all those regards, Eric Dreiband is woefully unqualified to lead the Civil Rights Division.
Now, more than ever, the leader of the Civil Rights Division must uphold its mission. This is an administration that has shown an open hostility to, and a demonstrated record of, undermining our nation’s core civil rights. We need a leader who will take the lessons of previous administrations and reject the politicization of the division. We need a leader who will be fair and yet aggressive about protecting civil rights, and can bring together faith, business, and law enforcement communities in pursuit of that goal. Dreiband does not have the qualities needed to lead.
Dreiband has devoted the vast majority of his career to defending corporations accused of employment discrimination. He has opposed important legislation to safeguard our civil rights. And he has no known experience in most of the Civil Rights Division’s core issue areas, such as voting rights, police reform, housing, education, and hate crimes. He is the wrong person for the job.
Although Mr. Dreiband worked briefly many years ago as a Bush administration official supervising affirmative litigation, he has spent 17 years defending employers charged with discrimination. But he isn’t your garden variety employment defense lawyer. He has made a name for himself as one of corporate America’s go-to lawyers in an effort to restrict the rights and remedies for discrimination victims. He testified against legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s infamous Ledbetter decision that allowed for pay discrimination against women, and against legislation to reverse a Supreme Court case that was a severe setback for age discrimination victims. He criticized the Obama EEOC’s litigation priorities, including its important ‘ban-the-box’ guidance, which promotes fair chance hiring by removing the conviction history checkbox from job applications. In recent years, he also filed lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s provisions that require employers to extend reproductive health care benefits to women employees.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Civil Rights Division. The American people deserve a leader of the Civil Rights Division who will embrace its historic mission and fight for the civil rights of all Americans. Eric Dreiband is not that person and The Leadership Conference calls on the Senate to reject his nomination.”
Note: In February, 129 civil rights groups sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions outlining the importance of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the necessary qualities of the individual who should lead that office. That letter is available here.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 200 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its 200-plus member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org.