Tuesday, April 29, 2014
This essay reviews the Obama Administration’s civil rights record during its first Administration, with a particular focus on the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). The review finds that although the Obama Administration has generally been supportive of progressive causes, particularly in the Supreme Court and among issues relating to gay men and lesbians, its enforcement activities have generally been quite limited. On a quantitative basis, the Obama Administration’s civil rights enforcement typically fall at the same or below levels of the prior Bush Administration, and with a few exceptions (mortgage discrimination and voting) the Administration has brought very few major cases. One interesting development is that the EEOC has become a far more aggressive enforcement agency than the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, as the EEOC has pursued a number of important and innovative issues that would move the law forward. At the same time, the EEOC’s actual number of cases filed has dropped significantly for the EEOC, as it is now bringing fewer claims than the agency did under the Bush Administration. Finally, the essay concludes that, while civil rights has not been a priority, the path it has taken follows the principles of the Democratic Party.