WASHINGTON ó Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler presided over the Civil Rights Division Awards Ceremony today in recognition of the outstanding achievements of its employees over the past year.
ďIt is difficult to overstate the importance of what you do,Ē Acting Attorney General Keisler told employees of the Civil Rights Division. Civil rights ďare this countryís most cherished rights, and our Constitution and laws insist on respect for those rights,Ē he added. Civil Rights Division employees ďlead the federal governmentís effort to make sure of that,Ē he said.
The following employees received awards at todayís ceremony:
JOHN DOAR AWARD
Donna Murphy, Deputy Chief in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, received the John Doar award, the Divisionís highest award, which is named for a former Assistant Attorney General. Ms. Murphy has served in the Division since 1990 and currently supervises the Divisionís fair lending enforcement program, as well as major public accommodations and fair housing cases.
In FY 2007, the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section obtained consent decrees providing for nearly $6,000,000 in damages for aggrieved persons, $577,000 in civil penalties, and nearly $4,700,000 in other relief. For example, this year the Section obtained $725,000óone of the sectionís highest monetary relief awardsóin United States v. General Properties, which alleged race discrimination against prospective African-American renters.
WALTER BARNETT MEMORIAL AWARD
Christopher Coates, Principal Deputy Chief of the Voting Section, received the Walter Barnett Memorial Award for exceptional accomplishments in written or oral advocacy, including his involvement in the following Section 2 lawsuits: United States v. Osceola County, Fla.; United States v. Ike Brown, et al.; United States v. City of Euclid, Ohio; and United States v. City of Port Chester, N.Y.
Due to the efforts of Mr. Coates and others in the Voting Section, the Section had a remarkably productive year in FY 2007, filing 13 new lawsuits as compared to an average annual rate of 8 new lawsuits per year. In addition, the Division is currently defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act in a federal court challenge in D.C.
EXCELLENCE IN LEGAL SUPPORT AWARD
Darryl Foster, Supervisory Equal Opportunity Specialist in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, received the Excellence in Legal Support award. Mr. Foster was honored for his outstanding leadership in the Fair Housing Testing Program in implementing Operation Home Sweet Home, the Attorney Generalís fair housing initiative. Under Mr. Fosterís direction, the testing program conducted more fair housing tests in FY 2007 than it has ever conducted in a single year.
MACEO W. HUBBARD AWARD
Janice Majewski, Accessibility Specialist in the Disability Rights Section, received the Maceo W. Hubbard award for her dedication to the preservation of civil rights. Ms. Majewski is the driving force behind the Divisionís Americans with Disabilities Act Business Connection, a multifaceted initiative designed to improve access to everyday commerce by fostering dialogue and cooperation between the business community and the disability community.
EXCELLENCE IN ADMINISTRATION AWARD
Moeen Chowdhury, Systems Accountant in the Administrative Management Section, received the Excellence in Administration award Ė which recognizes achievement in the administrative field and is awarded to someone who has significantly improved the Divisionís operations or efficiency Ė for his integral role in the Divisionís financial success.
Additional employees were honored with Special Commendation Awards, Meritorious Awards, Special Achievement Awards for Sustained Superior Performance, and Special Achievement Awards for Special Act or Service.
Earlier this month, four other Civil Rights Division employees received Attorney Generalís awards:
ATTORNEY GENERALíS AWARD FOR EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE
Bobbi Bernstein, a Deputy Chief of the Criminal Section, and Martha Lovejoy, former Paralegal Specialist of the Criminal Section, received the Attorney Generalís Award for Exceptional Service Ė the Departmentís highest award for employee performance. Ms. Bernstein and Ms. Lovejoy, and the other members of their prosecution team, received this award for their work on the groundbreaking hate crimes prosecution, United States v. Saldana. In this case, four members of a violent street gang were convicted of participating in a conspiracy aimed at threatening, assaulting, and murdering African Americans in a Los Angeles neighborhood claimed by the defendantsí gang.
In FY 2007, the Criminal Section set a record for the highest number of defendants ever convicted in one year in the history of the Section (189), surpassing last yearís record number of 181 defendants convicted. Of particular note, in FY 2007, the Department obtained a conviction against former Ku Klux Klan member James Seale for his involvement in the abduction and murder of two young African-American men 43 years ago. In the last seven years, the Civil Rights Division has brought 41 cross-burning prosecutions and convicted 60 defendants for these heinous crimes.
ATTORNEY GENERALíS AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO COMMUNITY PARTNERHIPS FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
Eric Treene, Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination, was awarded the Attorney Generalís Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Partnerships for Public Safety for his work developing a regular series of meetings between Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian leaders and the Department of Justice and various other federal agencies to address civil rights issues of concern to these communities post-9/11. These meetings are part of the Divisionís broader effort to protect the rights of these communities.
Since 9/11, the Civil Rights Division has prosecuted 38 defendants for federal bias crimes against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, and South Asians, with 34 convictions to date. The Department also has assisted in more than 150 state and local prosecutions involving bias crimes against these groups. Additionally, the Civil Rights Division has aggressively pursued discrimination cases involving these communities, including two pattern-or-practice employment discrimination cases, cases involving housing discrimination, cases of discrimination by zoning officials against mosques, cases of discrimination against Muslim students in public schools, and many others.
Attorney Generalís Award for Distinguished Service
Patricia Sumner, currently a Trial Attorney in the Criminal Section, was a member of a team while working for the Office of the Inspector General that was awarded an Attorney Generalís Award for Distinguished Service for its outstanding efforts in the comprehensive review of the FBIís National Security Letter procedures and procedures to obtain business records.