In Previous Roles, Holder Took Both Sides in Civil Rights Cases

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 22, 2009 | Go to article overview
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In Previous Roles, Holder Took Both Sides in Civil Rights Cases

Byline: Jennifer Haberkorn, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who challenged the country last week to confront race relations, has found himself on both sides of the courtroom on civil rights cases during his eight-year tenure at a high-profile Washington law firm.

And during his last stint at the Justice Department - when he served as deputy attorney general, the agency's No. 2 position, from 1997 to 2001 - the number of civil rights enforcement cases taken through the courts to a verdict fell, records show.

Mr. Holder, the first black person to hold the nation's top law enforcement job, called the United States a nation of cowards for not discussing more openly the country's troubled racial history and vowed that the department, under his leadership, would take a greater role in fighting racism and other discrimination.

His comment, viewed by some as incendiary, continued to receive attention at the end of the week, when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked by reporters whether President Obama agreed that the United States was essentially a nation of cowards.

I have not talked to the president about that, he said. I think what the attorney general discussed was, or talked about, was that for many years in this country all races have struggled with discussions about race.

A review of Mr. Holder's private legal practice shows that he represented companies accused of discrimination as well as individuals who claimed their civil rights had been violated by the federal or state governments, among many other cases.

Until recently, Mr. Holder was part of the pro bono group that represented Dennis Patrick Brown, according to written answers he provided the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing. Mr. Brown was wrongfully convicted of rape nearly 20 years ago in Louisiana and was exonerated by DNA evidence in 2005 through work by the Innocence Project-New Orleans.

The group then offered the case to Covington & Burling, which Mr. Holder joined in 2001 after serving as the deputy attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department. The firm was asked to pursue a still-pending federal case that claimed Mr. Brown was deprived of his constitutional rights and a state case seeking compensation.

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In Previous Roles, Holder Took Both Sides in Civil Rights Cases


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