Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good Afternoon. Welcome to the Civil Rights Division’s 2017 Awards Ceremony and 60th Anniversary Celebration. Today we honor the Division’s storied past, its vibrant present, and its glorious future. 2017 is a landmark year for the Civil Rights Division because it marks the 60th Anniversary of our continuing effort to make our country more free, more fair, more open, more just, more equal, and more great. Take a moment to think about what the country was like in 1957, the year the Civil Rights Division was founded. American was a global military and economic superpower. It had progressed a great distance from the Founding toward its promise of liberty and justice for all. But too many barriers to opportunity, to equality, and even to access persisted in our society. Those barriers cut across the most fundamental facets of American life, from education to employment to housing to voting to criminal justice to public accommodations. Those barriers deprived Americans of their basic rights, privileges, and opportunities based on their race, skin color, sex, national origin, religion, and disability.
The true legacy of the Civil Rights Division is what we no longer see. It is the barriers that no longer exist. It is the barriers that have been removed to strengthen and improve our nation, our communities, and the lives of untold millions. Over the last week, we have been honored to commemorate and even celebrate the many accomplishments of the Division over the past 60 years, and to contemplate the goals that the Division will achieve and the barriers the Division will remove over the next 60 years. And today we recognize the outstanding achievements of our colleagues, who this year have penned another chapter in the book of the Division’s legacy.
These accomplishments are noble and laudatory and deserving of the highest recognition. But this year has been defined by the excellent work across the Division and across all of our Sections. The highlights are too numerous to name, but here are a few:
- The Appellate Section finished its third consecutive Supreme Court term without a loss in cases where it signed a brief.
- The Criminal Section secured the death penalty in the Dylan Roof case for one of the most heinous hate crimes in history and, as the Attorney General mentioned, secured favorable results in two murder cases involving transgender victims and the Slager case.
- The Disability Rights Section settled three cases vindicating the rights of persons with disabilities in employment, and launched an Opioid Initiative to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities affected by the nationwide opioid crisis.
- The Employment Litigation Section reached one of the highest settlements ever in a single-plaintiff pregnancy-discrimination case and continued to fight for service members’ employment rights across the country.
- Thanks to the Educational Opportunities Section’s tireless efforts, in 2017, the students of the Cleveland, Mississippi, school district attended integrated schools for the first time in history.
- The Federal Coordination and Compliance Section resolved significant language-access matters involving the Washington state and Pennsylvania courts.
- The Housing and Civil Enforcement Section launched its Sexual Harassment Initiative and filed or settled over five sexual harassment cases that recovered more than $1 million for victims. HCE also obtained over $12 million in monetary relief for service members under the SCRA.
- Not to be outdone, the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section launched its Protecting U.S. Workers Initiative to protect U.S. workers from discrimination, and has already settled one such discrimination case.
- The Policy Section played a crucial role in planning, executing, and following through on this summer’s Hate Crimes Summit, which brought together stakeholders from law enforcement, criminal defense, advocacy and victims' rights groups, and the policymaking sphere. As a result of the Summit, the Department’s prosecution of hate crimes will become more effective, more efficient, and more robust.
- The Special Litigation Section continued its ongoing work to secure safe, effective, and constitutional law enforcement in jails and police departments, and worked with Cook County, East Haven, Warren, Seattle, and New Orleans to achieve substantial compliance with the decrees governing those jurisdictions.
- The Voting Rights Section reached a landmark settlement with New York City to require accurate and fair voter rolls, and worked with the State of South Carolina to adopt new legislation to protect service members’ voting rights in special elections.
- The Administrative Management Section provided excellent support day in and day out, and led the Division’s Strategic Plan and its resource-intensive migration to the Department’s Unified Financial Management System and the Office 365 cloud-hosted email system.
I am extraordinarily proud of all of these accomplishments, and I thank you for them. They belong to you. They belong to the hard-working career attorneys and staff who were here long before I got here and will be here long after I am gone. Thank you for your diligence, professionalism, excellence, and service on behalf of the Division, the Department, and the American people.