WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 7, 2021)—today, Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division announced his departure from the department, effective Jan. 8, 2021. Dreiband has served as Assistant Attorney General since Nov. 1, 2018.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband. “The United States of America is and must remain committed to the principle that all persons are created equal and should be judged because of their character, conduct, talent, work, and skills. Our Constitution and civil rights laws embody the ideals that all persons have worth, and are entitled to equal justice, respect, decency, peace, and safety. It is the duty of government to secure these rights, and it is the duty of the Civil Rights Division to protect all people in this nation against any violation of these rights, including hate-motivated violence, exploitation, unlawful discrimination and bigotry, and any other infringement of our Constitutional and federal civil rights. The Civil Rights Division fulfills its duty by enforcing the federal civil rights laws and seeking justice for victims. The Civil Rights Division’s enforcement of our civil rights laws also punishes lawbreakers, vindicates the rights of victims, and sends a message to the nation and the world that the United States government and its people do not tolerate illegal bigotry, discrimination, and exploitation of anyone.”
Under Assistant Attorney General Dreiband’s leadership, the career professionals of the Civil Rights Division set enforcement records and ensured that no area of civil or constitutional rights went unprotected. The division vigorously prosecuted hate crimes, including for the mass-murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; at an El Paso, Texas Walmart where 23 innocent people were killed, and; Charlottesville, Virginia where a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of protesters. Under Assistant Attorney General Dreiband, the Civil Rights Division filed more sexual harassment in housing lawsuits than ever; protected and sought and obtained relief for victims of racial discrimination in employment, housing, voting, lending, and other areas; held law enforcement accountable; protected U.S. workers; protected free speech, religious exercise, and other rights under the Constitution during the COVID-19 pandemic, and; filed more cases in 2020 on behalf of servicemembers than in any prior year.
Assistant Attorney General Dreiband defended civil and constitutional rights newly under threat or previously overlooked, in addition to aggressively enforcing traditional areas of civil rights protections. That record of accomplishments by the Civil Rights Division includes:
Record Response to Instances of Law Enforcement Misconduct. The Civil Rights Division prosecutes those law enforcement officers who betray the public trust by violating constitutional or other federally-protected rights. In 2019, the division prosecuted more of these criminal cases than ever in its history. These cases typically involved instances of excessive force by police or corrections officers.
Highest Number of Hate Crimes Cases in Decades. Federal law prohibits hate crimes involving physical harm and criminal threats motivated by the victims’ protected traits, such as religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, or disability. Under Dreiband’s leadership, federal prosecutors fully and fairly enforced these protections. In 2020, the number of hate crime cases charged by the division was the highest in two decades.
Racial Justice. As to racial discrimination, the division has brought and successfully resolved cases involving racial discrimination in employment by local governments, including law enforcement agencies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; racial discrimination in housing, including racial steering, under the Fair Housing Act; racially discriminatory lending under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act; race discrimination in voting under the Voting Rights Act; and to allow high school students to apply to college without illegal discrimination under the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on the color of their skin.
Record Number of Sexual Harassment Cases. In 2020, the Civil Rights Division filed more sexual harassment lawsuits against landlords than in any prior year. The division also successfully prosecuted sexual harassment cases against state and local government employers, including on behalf of female firefighters, and against public schools and universities.
Protecting Religious Liberty. Under the Civil Rights Division’s Place to Worship Initiative, the division significantly increased the number of lawsuits and investigations protecting the right of religious worship of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, and others. Combatting anti-Semitism, including in the form of hate crimes, was also a priority. In the Supreme Court of the United States, the division contributed to victories for religious liberty including the rights of religious employers, such as Catholic schools, and the right to attend parochial schools free of religious discrimination in scholarship programs.
Prison Reform. The Civil Rights Division during Dreiband’s tenure investigated, litigated, and successfully resolved cases that involve reforms of state and local prisons and jails. These include cases involving alleged pattern or practice violations of the Constitution against a state prison system for men for guard-on-prisoner excessive force, prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and sexual abuse; state prisons for sexual abuse of female prisoners; state prisons and local jails for excessive force against prisoners; the failure of juvenile justice systems to keep youth reasonably safe from youth-on-youth violence, and; other violations of the Constitution and other federal rights.
Protecting U.S. Workers. The division’s Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative, which combats employers who abuse temporary foreign visa programs (e.g., H-1 or H-2 visas) by discriminating against U.S. Workers, secured back pay to affected U.S. workers and civil penalties and recently filed a case against a major social media company for its alleged abuse of the temporary visa program.
Increased Resources to Fight Human Trafficking. Under Dreiband’s leadership, the division significantly increased the number of prosecutors who are dedicated to prosecuting the modern-day slavery of human trafficking — both in the commercial sex industry and as to forced labor. The division and its U.S. Attorney partners brought over 700 human trafficking cases in recent years.
Disability Rights. During Dreiband’s tenure, the division successfully investigated, litigated, and settled hundreds of disability-rights cases. A few examples illustrate this important work. The division reached major settlements with West Virginia to reform its children’s mental health system; Amtrak to make its train stations accessible to individuals with disabilities; North Dakota to end unnecessary segregation of individuals with physical disabilities, and; Harris County, Texas to provide accessible voting to voters with disabilities. The division also successfully tried to verdict a lawsuit against the State of Mississippi that alleged that Mississippi violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily segregating people with mental illness in its state hospitals and placing people with mental illness at serious risk of hospitalization as a result of insufficient community-based services. The Civil Rights Division also defended in court protections against coercive abortions for women and their unborn children who are diagnosed with Down’s syndrome.
COVID-19 Restrictions. Because there is no pandemic exception to the Constitution and our civil rights laws, the Civil Rights Division successfully fought unlawful pandemic-related restrictions that infringe on individual liberties, including First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, in numerous jurisdictions across the nation.