Tags: loretta lynch | holder | civil | rights | cases

Lynch Inherits Civil Rights Probes from Holder as Attorney General

Image: Lynch Inherits Civil Rights Probes from Holder as Attorney General
(Ron Sachs/DPA/Landov)

Monday, 27 Apr 2015 06:33 AM

A string of deadly confrontations between mostly white police and black men will be among challenges immediately facing Loretta Lynch when she is sworn in on Monday as U.S. attorney general.

Lynch, 55, takes over as the country's top law enforcement official after a weekend that saw thousands of people in Baltimore, Maryland, take to the streets in mostly peaceful protests over the latest such case. A 25-year-old black man died a week after being injured while in police custody.

Building on her career as an accomplished federal prosecutor, Lynch takes over from retiring Attorney General Eric Holder, who served more than six turbulent years at the head of the Justice Department.

Holder was the first black U.S. attorney general and Lynch becomes the first black woman to hold the job.

Besides the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, other questionable encounters between police and black males in recent months have led to unrest in South Carolina, Missouri, Ohio and New York.

The Justice Department is probing whether excessive force was used against minorities in violation of their civil rights.

"This whole police community relations situation ... is the civil rights cause for this generation," said Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, whose Baltimore residents want answers about Gray's unexplained death.

Cummings' remarks on Sunday were broadcast from an interview on CBS program "Face the Nation."

In recent interviews, Holder has said it should be easier to bring charges of civil rights violations. He was unable to do this in the case of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who was involved in a fatal shooting in August 2014.

Lowering the legal bar in such cases would need an act of Congress. Whether Lynch carries on with Holder's effort in that direction is uncertain. She has promised to pursue a smoother relationship with Congress. Holder often clashed with Republican lawmakers and was found in contempt of Congress in 2012 for withholding some documents related to a failed gun-running probe.

 

SPRAWLING DEPARTMENT

Lynch will preside over a sprawling department made up of 40 organizations including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an over-burdened Civil Rights Division, the FBI, the U.S. Parole Commission and the Anti-Trust Division.

Besides trying to improve community policing, Lynch will face other daunting problems.

The director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, part of the DOJ, resigned this month over reports that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes hired by Colombian drug cartels.

Meanwhile, the agency Lynch is inheriting has recently struck a sterner tone with financial institutions accused of misconduct.

Lynch will have to tackle settlements pending with banks over the manipulation of currency markets and charges of helping clients evade U.S. taxes. Six major banks could settle as soon as May on allegations they manipulated foreign exchange markets.

Add in the threat of cybersecurity breaches and American citizens seeking to become Islamic State fighters and Lynch has a full plate.

Attorneys general invariably confront problems that come out of nowhere, as well, making it one of the highest-profile positions in any administration.

Janet Reno, President Bill Clinton's attorney general from 1993-2001, dealt with crises including the bombing of an Oklahoma federal building, a deadly confrontation with the "Branch Davidians" sect in Waco, Texas, and the arrival in Florida of a young Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, whose custody battle grew into an international incident.

Robert Kennedy in the early 1960s took on organized crime and union boss Jimmy Hoffa, while also sending federal marshals to enforce a court order allowing black civil rights activist James Meredith to attend the University of Mississippi.

Elliot Richardson resigned during the Watergate-era "Saturday Night Massacre" and John Ashcroft was in a hospital sick bed in 2004 when top White House officials reportedly tried but failed to get his approval for a controversial domestic surveillance program.

Lynch survived a difficult and lengthy Senate confirmation process with most Republicans voting against her. That may end up being the easiest part of her run as attorney general.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

 
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A string of deadly confrontations between mostly white police and black men will be among challenges immediately facing Loretta Lynch when she is sworn in on Monday as U.S. attorney general.Lynch, 55, takes over as the country's top law enforcement official after a weekend...
loretta lynch, holder, civil, rights, cases
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2015-33-27
Monday, 27 Apr 2015 06:33 AM
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