Justice Department expands civil rights law with 'statements of interest' in local suits
The U.S. Justice Department under the leadership of former Attorney General Eric Holder has filed “statements of interest” in dozens of local lawsuits to fight what he calls “institutionalized injustice.”
Holder’s replacement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, is continuing the practice, which is “pushing the boundaries of civil rights law,” the New York Times reports.
The Justice Department has filed the statements in cases involving legal aid, transgender plaintiffs, homeless people, juvenile prisoners in solitary confinement, and blind people seeking access to Uber, the story says.
In the past, the Justice Department typically offered its opinion only in cases with the potential to directly affect a federal interest, such as foreign policy or national security. Now the department is expressing its opinion on matters of constitutional law in local civil rights cases, though it typically refrains from wading into the facts of a case or declaring which side should win.
Rather than filing its own lawsuits, the story says, the Justice Department is “piggybacking on local cases,” and “coaxing judges around the country toward liberal interpretations of civil rights law without taking on a prolonged court fight.”