Guaranteeing the Civil Rights of Americans
During this past year, the Department was involved in a wide range of civil rights activities. The Department investigated hate crimes, discrimination and segregation in elementary and secondary education, discrimination in employment and housing, and violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The Department also worked to increase voter registration through the National Voters Registration Act, assured the rights of persons with disabilities through the Americans with Disabilities Act, and protected the rights of Americans abroad while promoting the rule of international law.
Hate Crime and Criminal Civil Rights
In 1995, the Department continued to actively investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Some examples include: a cooperative investigation with the Lubbock, Texas, police department that resulted in an African-American man being sentenced to 99 years in a State prison for the racially motivated murder of a white victim; another investigation with the Lubbock police department that resulted in three white supremacists being indicted for the racially motivated shootings of three black victims, one of whom died; an investigation and indictment of four members of the Aryan National Front who attempted to burn the residence of an interracial couple near Jackson, Mississippi; and the convictions of two white males in Turner, Maine, for shooting at four Hispanic males, one of whom was injured.
Through the Department's vigorous efforts, a record total of 81 criminal civil rights cases were filed in 1995, charging 134 defendants including 50 law enforcement officers. Twenty four trials were conducted, some involving multiple defendants, resulting in 32 convictions and 13 acquittals. Guilty pleas from 75 defendants coupled with the trial convictions resulted in an overall success rate of 89.2 percent.
The Department remained committed to eliminating the vestiges of segregation in elementary and secondary education, as well as in State institutions of higher education. In the past year, the Department obtained a consent decree that will finally desegregate the schools in Darlington County, South Carolina, 40 years after Brown v. Board of Education. The Department also entered into a consent decree regarding its claim that the Randolph County, Alabama, school district -- where a high school principal threatened to cancel the prom if interracial student couples planned to attend -- was violating longstanding desegregation orders. The Department continued its challenges to the separate higher education systems in Mississippi and Alabama, and entered into a consent decree desegregating Louisiana's public university system. The Department also continued to defend the rights of women to gain admission to the last two publicly funded State all-male military colleges -- the Citadel and the Virginia Military Institute.
Prior to the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) taking effect on January 1, 1995, the Department conducted significant educational outreach to prepare States to comply voluntarily with the new Act. While most States complied, in early 1995 the Department filed lawsuits against California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina for their refusal to comply with the new law's requirements. Subsequently, the Department sued Michigan, Mississippi, and Virginia. All the court rulings in these cases have agreed that the NVRA is constitutional. Thanks to enforcement of the NVRA, voter registration in some jurisdictions is up by as much as 500 percent.
During 1995, the Department continued to defend redistricting plans designed to assure that minority voters have a fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The Supreme Court's June 1995 decision in Johnson v. Miller that Georgia's use of race in the drawing of its Congressional redistricting plan was unjustified and violated the Equal Protection Clause has resulted in further litigation concerning the legal standards under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the Constitution. The Department also participated in lawsuits involving Congressional redistricting plans in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Texas, and State legislative redistricting in Florida.
The Department maintained its resolve to eliminate discriminatory practices affecting voters. For example, in 1995, a consent decree was negotiated that provided a Chinese language election information program for Alameda County, California, and remedies the failure to employ Chinese Americans as election officials. In addition, the Department continues to monitor earlier consent decrees requiring counties in several States to comply with the minority language provisions of the NVRA. Also, during 1995, the Civil Rights Division, on behalf of the Attorney General, reviewed more than 12,000 voting changes, objecting to 62 changes that failed to satisfy the nondiscrimination requirements of the NVRA. Among the changes objected to were redistricting plans, motor voter implementation procedures, changes to at-large elections, polling place changes, annexations, and minority language procedures.
Employment Rights and Fair Housing
The Department continued to use the tactic of hitting employers in their pocket as a means to ensure compliance with United States employment laws. In settlement agreements reached with the States of North Carolina, Delaware and New Jersey, the Department won over $17.7 million in combined monetary relief for close to 1,000 victims of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Two other cases of note are described below:
In McKennon v. Nashville Banner Publishing Co., the Supreme Court agreed with the Solicitor General's position as amicus curiae that if an employer fires an employee for a discriminatory reason, the employer cannot defend itself from liability based on newly discovered information that would have justified the decision to fire the employee. The Court's ruling ensures that discrimination cannot be sheltered by post-hoc rationalizations and furthers the vigorous enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
The Department also devoted significant resources in 1995 to ensuring compliance with the Fair Housing Act. Over 100 cases were filed under the Fair Housing Act, consisting of pattern or practice cases as well as cases referred to the Department by HUD following investigation of individual complaints by that agency. For example, the Department continued its attack on discriminatory denials of home mortgage loans with the commencement of several investigations of lending institutions, and the filing of a suit against the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago. In addition, the Department's first challenge of racial discrimination under the Fair Housing Act was the lawsuit against American Family Insurance (AFI), the largest provider of homeowners insurance in the State of Wisconsin. Both cases were settled by consent decree. In the AFI case, the Department obtained $5 million in monetary damages to individual victims of discrimination and over $9 million in low interest loans for the formerly excluded community.
In addition, the successes from the Department's Fair Housing Testing Program continued in 1995 with settlements in testing cases creating a compensation pool of over $600,000 for victims of illegal discrimination and providing for payment of over $130,000 in civil penalties to the United States.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
In an effort to ensure the rights of all disabled Americans, the Department has continued its comprehensive enforcement, technical assistance, and certification programs. Through lawsuits and formal and informal settlement agreements, over 400 ADA cases have been resolved. The enforcement program has secured access to dental care for persons with HIV/AIDS; achieved greater access to hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, and department stores; increased access to the basic services of local government including "911" emergency services, town halls, and police departments; and ensured pension benefits for police officers and firefighters. As amicus, the Department has argued for reasonable modifications in day care center policies; asserted ADA coverage of zoning practices; and challenged overly broad inquiries into the mental health history of candidates for the bar.
In its efforts to assist the public, the Department responded to 75,000 calls from persons seeking assistance on the toll-free ADA Information Line. It also disseminated more than 40 million publications and information pieces to the public. The ADA technical assistance grant program trained professional mediators to resolve ADA disputes; trained architecture students and professors about accessible design; conducted projects to reach small businesses and cities with information about the ADA; and developed a kit for training "911" operators and managers to respond to calls from people who use Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf. The Department also worked closely with the National Center for State Courts and the American Bar Association to offer technical assistance to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to improve access to Federal courthouses and proceedings for persons with disabilities, and issued the first ADA certification of a State building code, finding the Washington State Regulations for Barrier Free Design to be equivalent to ADA requirements. This certification will allow architects and builders to design and construct ADA-accessible facilities by simply following the State code.
Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA)
Vigorous enforcement of CRIPA in 1995 resulted in the Department obtaining settlement agreements remedying unconstitutional conditions in eight juvenile facilities in Puerto Rico, six county jails in Mississippi, a Montana State Prison, a nursing facility in the District of Columbia, and the Conecuh County Jail in Evergreen, Alabama. The Department obtained contempt orders involving the Arlington Developmental Center (Tennessee), and the Hawaii State Hospital. In 1995, new CRIPA investigations were begun at 37 facilities.
The FBI conducted several significant investigations, such as the murder of an Indian who prior to his death had filed an excessive use of force complaint against the Chief of Police of the Fort Pierre, South Dakota, Police Department; the investigation of a corrections officer in Hawaii who was subsequently convicted for physically assaulting three young wards of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility; and the investigation of several police officers in Ohio who hogtied a man in custody and caused his death.
Following the 1994 convictions of eight correctional officers at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman and at the request of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the FBI provided civil rights training to ranking correctional officers. Recognizing that there was an excessive number of brutality complaints against their officers, the Virginia Department of Corrections requested and was provided FBI civil rights training, which was transmitted throughout the State via teleconference. Additionally, the FBI has participated with the INS in training INS and Border Patrol officers assigned to the Southwest Border.
Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE)
The Department maintained its commitment to enforcing the ability of persons to exercise their reproductive rights. The Civil Division scored a victory for women's rights when it successfully defended the FACE against a series of constitutional challenges in 1995. The Criminal Division also vigorously pursued criminal violations of FACE. During 1995, 12 defendants were charged in 10 cases resulting in convictions of six defendants and guilty pleas of two others. The Department also filed eight civil cases under FACE in 1995.
In response to the ongoing threat of violence, the USMS continued to provide protective details to a number of abortion providers around the Nation. The USMS provided assistance ranging from roving patrols to extensive details at eight abortion clinics, as well as personal security details for two physicians.
The Department continued its work at protecting the rights of Americans abroad and promoting the international rule of law by providing a forum for the adjudication of certain property and personal injury claims of United States nationals against foreign governments.
In February 1995, the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) completed the Iran Claims Program, begun in 1991. The FCSC adjudicated the claims of more than 3,100 corporations and individuals against the government of Iran arising out of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, making awards in excess of $ 86 million. Awards were paid from funds transferred by Iran to the United States pursuant to a 1990 settlement agreement between the two countries.
The FCSC also implemented The Albanian Claims Program, to resolve the claims of United States nationals for losses suffered at the hands of the Communist regime that came into power in Albania at the end of World War II. The FCSC is implementing, with the Department of State, an agreement between the United States and Vietnam establishing a fund of $203.5 million to pay awards made by the Commission in its Vietnam Claims Program, and is also working with the German government to implement a program to decide the claims of American survivors of the Holocaust.
Safeguarding America's Environment
The Department continued to play a vital role in safeguarding the Nation's environment through natural resources protection, environmental enforcement, defense of other agencies' environmental initiatives, protection of the rights of Indians, and promotion of environmental justice.
The U.S. Attorneys, in conjunction with the Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, enforce the Nation's environmental laws. Procedures implemented last year defined and strengthened the partnership between the U.S. Attorneys and the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes. During 1995, the U.S. Attorneys filed 145 environmental crime cases against 232 defendants, representing a 33 percent increase in the number of cases filed and a 41 percent increase in the number of defendants compared to 1995. Ninety-two percent of those defendants whose cases were terminated during the year were convicted.
Natural Resources Protection
The Department worked closely with Federal land-management agencies to develop ecosystem approaches to protecting Federal lands based on sound scientific principles, and to reaffirm the Federal government's right to manage Federal lands. The Department successfully defended the President's Forest Plan, a strategy for Federal forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. This helped to end the gridlock that had stopped timber harvesting in spotted owl habitat. The Department also continued to work toward resolution of issues involving efforts to protect salmon in the Pacific Northwest. In the U.S. Supreme Court, the Department successfully defended the Fish and Wildlife Service's interpretation of the term "harm" as used in the Endangered Species Act as including habitat modification that results in death or injury to an endangered species. In a related case, The Department's efforts in Thomas Creek Lumber & Log Co. v. United States helped protect the northern spotted owl, as well as many endangered species for future generations. In this case, the Department successfully defended the Bureau of Land Management's policy of suspending the sale of timber on lands occupied by endangered species.
The Department is also working aggressively to eliminate hostility against Federal employees entrusted with managing our Nation's public lands. A team of Department attorneys worked with other agencies to institute training for Federal employees on appropriate responses to potentially violent encounters. The Department has worked with the National Association of Counties, National Sheriffs Association, and others to establish better communication with local communities and to discourage acts of violence. The Department has also successfully sued to reaffirm the United States' right to manage Federal lands.
Criminal and Civil Environmental Enforcement
Environmental crime priorities center on cases where subjects have knowingly and seriously endangered employees or the public, where flagrant patterns of violation indicate a calculated disregard for environmental laws, where damage to the environment is widespread or severe, and where government or public lands are affected or there is any indication of involvement by organized crime. In 1995, the Department's environmental crimes program achieved a number of notable successes. For example:
International wildlife smuggling is a multi-billion dollar per year industry that poses a severe threat to biodiversity. The Department has focused accelerated prosecution efforts in several venues on smugglers trafficking in exotic birds such as parrots, macaws, and cockatoos. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Customs Service conducted a cooperative investigation of an operation that smuggled parrots from Central America and Mexico through the Rio Grande Valley. To date, 31 defendants have been charged and convicted.
The Department's civil environmental enforcement efforts have also achieved remarkable results. In 1995, the Department obtained court judgments assessing over $90 million in civil penalties, recovered $192 million in costs for the Superfund cleanup program, secured $482 million in commitments for cleanup work, and recovered more than $16 million in natural resource damages. In one example, three Burlington Northern Railroad train derailments released oil and hazardous substances to surface waters in Wyoming and Wisconsin. The Department achieved a consent decree under the Oil Pollution Act that requires Burlington Northern to make cash payments totalling $1.5 million, which includes a civil penalty, response costs, and reimbursement for natural resources damages. Burlington Northern must also undertake an additional environmental protection project valued at $1.2 million. Other significant cases include:
The Department also focused on obtaining restoration of contaminated ecosystems. In one instance, the Southern Ohio Coal Company discharged approximately one billion gallons of untreated acid mine drainage into several streams in southeastern Ohio, which resulted in a "total kill" of all aquatic fauna in more than 15 miles of streams. The consent decree requires Southern Ohio Coal to pay a substantial civil penalty and costs of reimbursement, and to ensure that the aquatic faunal communities return to their pre-discharge condition.
Civil enforcement under the Superfund cleanup program was very successful in 1995. In a landmark agreement involving one of the Nation's worst hazardous waste dumps, the Department achieved a settlement that will result in the cleanup of the Operating Industries Superfund Site in Monterey Park, California. The Superfund program was made far more productive by the Department and the EPA working together to develop a series of administrative reforms, including greater use of alternative dispute resolution, settlements with de minimis contributors, and settlements that encourage redevelopment of Superfund sites. The Department has negotiated several "Prospective Purchaser Agreements", which encourage industrial use of contaminated sites by providing relief from suits for Superfund liability in return for agreements to assist in the cleanup of the site and other assurances. In this way, old industrial sites can once again be productive, and public health and the environment are protected.
Defending Regulatory Actions
Over the past year the Department has successfully defended many important programs of the EPA. In one such action, the Department vigorously defended EPA's Clean Air Act program against many legal attacks, including challenges to an EPA program that governs State plans for automobile inspection and maintenance, and one that controls acid rain through marketable "allowances" for sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants. Under the Clean Water Act, the Department successfully brokered a settlement in a suit by citizens to compel EPA to issue water quality standards for the San Francisco Bay/San Joaquin Delta Estuary. The settlement will ensure appropriate water quality standards for the 20 million people in the San Francisco Bay area, and was praised by national media as a successful resolution of one of the largest and longest-running environmental disputes.
Promoting Partnerships with Indians
The Interior Department's interpretation of the Reindeer Industry Act of 1937 as precluding non-Native ownership of reindeer for commercial purposes was successfully defended by the Department in District Court. The Department worked with Indian tribes to promote economic development, defend tribal authority, and protect tribal water and treaty rights. The Department also successfully defended a challenge to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act; successfully brought suit to protect the water rights of the Apache tribe from salt contamination resulting from the farming practices of other water rights holders; and defended tribal treaty rights to take shellfish in Western Washington, with the Court holding that the tribes had the right to take up to one-half of the harvestable shellfish found within their usual and accustomed areas, which include all of Puget Sound. Efforts also continue to protect the hunting and fishing rights reserved in a 1834 treaty for the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa.
In addition, the Department took actions to protect Indian communities from pollution. At the Bunker Hill Superfund site in Idaho, a site heavily polluted by mining wastes, a settlement was reached in a bankruptcy proceeding that will begin the process of cleaning up that area, a result that is beneficial to the Coeur d'Alene tribe and others. On behalf of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians of California, the Department obtained an injunction against sewage sludge composting and stockpiling on a tract of trust land within the Tribe's reservation.
The Department continued active participation in developing and advocating the United States' position on a wide range of international environmental matters. The Department played an active role in negotiations with Taiwan to enhance Taiwanese endangered species laws and enforcement, efforts that led to the lifting of U.S. trade sanctions against Taiwan. At the Department's urging, environmental problems afflicting residents of Colonias -- substandard residential areas lining both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border -- have been incorporated into the 1995-2000 phase of the U.S.-Mexico Border Plan. The Department has also lent its environmental expertise to training of representatives of foreign governments. The Department likewise assisted in the review of Chile's environmental laws and enforcement in view of Chile's proposed accession to North American Free Trade Agreement.
In 1994, the President signed Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice, and the Department has been working to promote implementation of the Executive Order both at the Department and government-wide. In the past year, the Department brought many cases redressing environmental violations in low-income and minority communities. For example, one of these cases involved criminal violations in a low-income minority neighborhood in Philadelphia. Another concerns Clean Water Act violations by a chemical processing company that borders one of the Nation's most environmentally burdened communities -- Altgeld Gardens in Southeast Chicago. The Department also sponsored an environmental justice conference for Federal civil rights and environmental attorneys from 13 Federal agencies responsible for complying with the Executive Order.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Because environmental cases are often complex and involve many parties, the Department has carefully examined the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") for more efficient litigation and faster resolutions that protect the environment. In the past year, more than 30 environmental cases have been resolved using ADR. The Department considered or used ADR in over 200 environmental cases in 1995.
Enforcing Antitrust Laws
The Department is committed to enforcing laws that preserve a competitive business environment. Toward this end, the Antitrust Division targeted major prosecutorial and civil actions at international price-fixing cartels and at anti-competitive practices in the health care industry. In 1995, the Division filed 60 criminal cases against 40 corporations and 32 individuals, resulting in $41.5 million in criminal antitrust fines in 1995 -- the highest total ever in corporate criminal antitrust fines.
Two Japanese companies pleaded guilty and paid criminal fines for their participation in an international price-fixing conspiracy, much of which was conducted in Japan, in the thermal fax paper industry. In addition, with the assistance of Canadian authorities, the Antitrust Division obtained guilty pleas in connection with its major criminal investigation of an international price-fixing conspiracy in the disposable plastic dinnerware industry.
To complement its strategy of vigorous criminal prosecution, the Department aggressively pursued civil remedies, including 16 civil consent decrees in 1995, the highest number in 15 years. Various consent decrees the Department obtained will end anti-competitive practices by hospitals and physician groups in two States, as well as promote competition among dental and optometrical plans.
Other actions resulted in an agreement to end anti-competitive activities in the automobile industry by the National Automobile Dealers Association, and a $25 million civil settlement from Steinhardt Management Company and Caxton Corporation in connection with the auction of U.S. Treasury securities, a major effort coordinated with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Finally, the Department is charged with screening proposed corporate mergers to prevent unlawful concentrations of economic power. In a widely publicized case, the Antitrust Division successfully protected competition in computer software markets by challenging the proposed Microsoft-Intuit merger, which Microsoft abandoned after the Antitrust Division filed suit.
Civil Justice Reform
The Attorney General strongly encourages greater cooperation and the appropriate sharing of information and resources between Federal and State courts and the Department. To this end, the Attorney General and other Departmental officials meet regularly with the Executive Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States. Periodic meetings are also held with the Conference of State Chief Justices and the National Center for State Courts to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as the competence of lawyers who represent persons on death row, and the implementation of full faith and credit for civil protective and child support orders.
In addition, the Department took numerous steps to strengthen implementation of Executive Order 12250, which gives the Attorney General authority to ensure effective and consistent enforcement of civil rights statutes throughout the Federal government. In 1995, the Department consulted with more than 60 civil rights organizations and related groups to seek their suggestions and recommendations.
Access to Legal Services
Ensuring access to legal services continues to be a priority. The Department has supported conferences to explore innovative models for the delivery of legal services specifically for moderate income persons and to examine the variety of experiments on the State and local level to assist persons who wish to represent themselves. The Department has consistently and strongly supported the continued funding of the Legal Services Corporation, and works with Federal administrative adjudicatory bodies to streamline their procedures, create a more cooperative environment for pro bono lawyers, and provide increased opportunities for nonlawyer representation when appropriate.
Improving Communication Among the Branches of Government
The Attorney General led a Three-Branch-Roundtable on State and Federal jurisdiction in March of 1994. Issues arising from this Roundtable spawned participation in several Department of Justice/Judicial Conference Working Groups in 1995. Some of the issues explored by the working groups included: the role of ADR mechanisms in the civil justice system and the Department's ADR initiative; the government's settlement authority; a public citation system; the "three strikes and you're out" criminal provision; prosecution of aliens; pretrial detention; mandatory minimums safety valve; prosecution in Indian country; juvenile crimes; and violence against women.
These activities are designed to establish regular mechanisms of communication between the three branches of government at the Federal level, and between Federal, State and local governments on matters affecting the justice system. The goal of these efforts is to ensure the appropriate allocation of law enforcement activity to avoid duplication and to take advantage of the relative competence of justice system institutions.
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