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Friday, November 14, 2008

MSBA weighs in on DOJ hiring practices

The Minnesota State Bar Association is making its voice heard on the controversy that came to light this summer over the hiring practices by the Department of Justice.

In a recent letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, MSBA president Michael Ford (at right) notes that the organization recently passed a resolution affirming its long-standing support for legal services to the disadvantaged. The resolution, Ford writes, was “compelled” by recent reports that DOJ staff had “categorized public interest legal experience of prospective interns and employees on an ideological basis, and had denied employment to those applicants deemed ‘liberal’ by virtue of their involvement with legal aid, public defender, and related organizations.” Ford notes that several of the organizations identified in the reports are in Minnesota.
“By potentially dissuading lawyers and law students from participating in these efforts for fear that it could harm their careers, the [DOJ’s] actions reduce critical resources for legal aid and pro bono programs,” the letter states.

To that end, the MSBA is requesting that the DOJ “take immediate, concrete steps” to insure that no one is denied employment because of their involvement with legal services organizations and that it communicate to all law students and lawyers its support for equal access to justice.

It’s just one voice, but hopefully the DOJ hears it.

As an aside, according to an article in the Washington Post yesterday, president-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is looking into how it can restructure the DOJ to avoid the infusion of politics into the organization. I, for one, am encouraged that this seems to be a priority for the incoming administration.

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