U.S. Attorney’s Office Expands Civil Rights Enforcement with Creation of Civil Rights Unit
Announcement Occurs in Conjunction with LGBT Forum and Listening Session
ATLANTA - U.S. Attorney John Horn announced the creation of a Civil Rights Unit within the office’s Civil Division to enhance the investigation and resolution of civil rights matters within the Northern District of Georgia. Horn made the announcement on July 28, 2016, during a forum and listening session with leaders from LGBT advocacy groups, houses of worship, local law enforcement and nonprofit organizations at the Phillip Rush Center in Atlanta.
“This office has a long history of civil rights enforcement, but as our portfolio of civil rights matters and outreach has grown in recent years, the creation of a formal unit within our Civil Division allows us to coordinate and expand our civil rights program,” said U.S. Attorney John A. Horn. “We are able to respond to more complaints on a local level and, working together with our colleagues at the Civil Rights Division in Washington, leverage our resources to litigate larger and more impactful cases. We are committed to ensuring that justice, safety, and protected rights are enjoyed by everyone in our community.”
Historically, the litigation of civil rights matters fell primarily to attorneys working in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., and most complaints and inquiries about potential civil rights violations were referred there. In 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia (“NDGA”) initiated its own civil rights enforcement program and has investigated and resolved civil rights cases involving disability discrimination, fair housing, and education, among others.
In 2016, the NDGA successfully competed for one of 34 Assistant U.S. Attorney slots specifically for civil rights work that DOJ has allocated to U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. Horn has named current AUSA Aileen Bell Hughes, who joined the office from the Civil Rights Division, to this slot to oversee the office’s civil rights program within the office’s Civil Division. The office is soliciting applications for an additional AUSA who will work primarily on civil rights matters, as well as other civil cases. AUSA Brent Alan Gray will continue to oversee the office’s civil rights matters within the Criminal Division.
Horn made the announcement during a well-attended forum and listening session with members of the LGBT community at the Phillip Rush Center, during which participants shared ideas, concerns, and suggestions on LGBT issues. The discussion touched upon issues including the prosecution of hate crimes under the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act and under Georgia law, and the protection of LGBT rights in schools, housing, and the workplace.
Participants at the forum included representatives from: Lambda Legal-Atlanta; the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity (SOJOURN); AID Atlanta; Compassionate Atlanta; LGBT Institute; Congregation Bet Haverim; Project Q Atlanta; Lost-n-Found Youth; Georgia Equality; The Temple-Atlanta; ADL Southeast; Gentle Spirit Christian Church; GLSEN Atlanta; the Center for Pan Asian Community Services; Georgia Republicans for the Future; Charis Circle; and LaGender, Inc.
During the forum, Horn explained that the new Civil Rights Unit will augment the NDGA’s ability to ensure equal opportunity and equal rights for those within our communities with additional resources dedicated to advocacy and outreach in this area. The office also soon will be publishing a dedicated page on the NDGA’s website with information about the civil rights program, resources, and contacts to file complaints.
Several recent examples of the Office’s civil rights work include:
- An agreement with DeKalb County School District resolving an investigation concerning alleged incidents of religion and national origin harassment of a Sikh middle school student;
- An agreement with Grady Memorial Hospital, the largest hospital in the State of Georgia, to resolve an investigation into allegations that it violated Title III of the ADA by failing to ensure effective communication for people who are deaf and hard of hearing;
- An ongoing investigation, including the issuance of a Findings Letter, involving the Georgia Board of Education for discriminating against thousands of children with disabilities by administering and funding GNETS program in a manner that unnecessarily segregates children with disabilities from their peers; and
- ADA compliance reviews of local courthouses and voting polling sites in the Northern District of Georgia.
In addition to the NDGA’s extensive investigation and prosecution of civil rights matters, the office has participated with our community partners to provide training on civil rights matters and host roundtables on various civil rights topics. The new Civil Rights Unit will continue to provide a forum to combat discrimination in our community.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office wishes to extend its gratitude to those who attended Thursday’s event and contributed to the roundtable discussion. The comments and questions provided invaluable feedback about issues of concern to the LGBT community.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga. Further information about the LGBT forum also can be found on the NDGA’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/NDGAnews/, and Twitter feed, https://twitter.com/NDGAnews.